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Why cancer in developing countries matters, in one graph

You already know the world is getting better. It is reason to be optimistic, but some new challenges will replace old ones.

The improving world means that more people will die of non-communicable diseases. That is medical speak for the diseases that cannot be spread from person to person. Topping the list are lifestyle diseases like cancer, diabetes and heart disease. They can be tied to the problem of tobacco use and obesity.

A graph from The Economist shows that developing countries are behind in terms of cancer rates as compared to their Western counterparts, but the mortality rates are in some cases higher.


An estimated 19.3 million people will get cancer in 2025, up from the 14.1 million new cancer cases in 2012. Diabetes killed some 3.4 million people in 2004. By 2030 it is expected to be the seventh leading killer. A similar increase will take place for cardiovascular disease, claiming 23.3 million lives annually by 2030, an increase of 5 million as compared to 2008.

Pneumonia and diarrhea are still the leading killers in developing countries, but that is going to change. In fact it is already happening. Heart disease moved up from the 10th leading killer in developing countries to the 3rd, between 1990 and 2010. The majority of cancer cases and deaths already occur in low and middle income countries.

For a deeper dive into the cancer data, read Katie Leach-Kemon’s post from Friday.


About Author

Tom Murphy

Tom Murphy is a New Hampshire-based reporter for Humanosphere. Before joining Humanosphere, Tom founded and edited the aid blog A View From the Cave. His work has appeared in Foreign Policy, the Huffington Post, the Guardian, GlobalPost and Christian Science Monitor. He tweets at @viewfromthecave. Contact him at tmurphy[at]