Wellbeing and Mental Health

'Striking inequities' as global cancer burden grows, and other health stories you need to know this week

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A senior radiographer prepares a patient to undergo a mammogram X-ray picture of the breast to look for early signs of breast cancer.

Around a fifth of people develop cancer in their lifetime. Image: REUTERS/Njeri Mwangi

Shyam Bishen
Head, Centre for Health and Healthcare; Member of the Executive Committee, World Economic Forum
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  • This global round-up brings you health stories from the past fortnight.
  • Top health news: Cancer inequity as disease burden grows; Gentoo penguins killed by bird flu; Dengue fever: Rio de Janeiro declares public health emergency.

1. Striking cancer inequity as global disease burden grows – WHO

The global cancer burden is growing and is having a disproportionate impact on underserved populations, figures from the World Health Organization's (WHO) cancer agency show.

There were an estimated 20 million new cancer cases and 9.7 million deaths in 2022, according to the International Agency for Research on Cancer. Around a fifth of people develop cancer in their lifetime, and 1 in 9 men and 1 in 12 women die from the disease.

Basic cancer management is only part of the financed healthcare services on offer in 39% of countries, with little over a quarter providing palliative care.

Ten cancers made up two-thirds of new cases and deaths globally in 2022, with lung cancer being the most commonly occurring.

The figures come as the European Union urges greater uptake of vaccines against human papillomaviruses (HPV) and hepatitis B, both of which can lead to cancer.

Absolute numbers, incidence, both sexes, in 2022.
Lung, breast and colorectal cancers are the most common forms globally. Image: IARC

2. Bird flu kills penguins near Antarctica

Over 200 chicks and a handful of adult gentoo penguins in the Falkland Islands have been killed by bird flu, marking the first time the deadly virus has been confirmed in the population.

A suspected case of bird flu among king penguins in South Georgia was ruled out.

The Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research has raised concerns the virus could easily carve through the Antarctic's huge penguin population, as well as affect other species such as seals.

Although gentoos rarely travel to the Antarctic Peninsula, they could serve as "local reservoirs of infection" for the disease, which has killed many other birds across the globe.

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3. News in brief: More health stories from around the world

Rio de Janeiro has declared a public health emergency as cases of dengue fever spiked days ahead of Carnival celebrations across Brazil. Authorities announced the move to contain the mosquito-borne epidemic, which has already led to more than 11, 000 cases in Rio in 2024, compared to nearly 23,000 for the whole of 2023.

The US plans to hire 50 artificial intelligence (AI) experts to help it crack down on fentanyl production, as well as halt child abuse and assess damage from natural disasters.

AI can improve the accuracy of doctors' diagnoses of skin disease but does not necessarily compensate for bias, research published in Nature Medicine shows. Doctors remain less likely to correctly identify skin diseases on non-white skin even with the assistance of AI, the authors say.

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Another study, featured in Nature Aging, has identified over 1,400 blood proteins that may predict several forms of dementia a decade before diagnosis, Reuters reports. Scientists from the UK and China, who analyzed more than 50,000 samples, say the results show promise for earlier patient identification to advance treatment research.

A malaria vaccine developed by the University of Oxford and the Serum Institute of India has been shown to prevent around three-quarters of symptomatic malaria cases in young children during the 12 months since they received it, a large trial has shown. It has already been approved by the WHO and three West African countries, and is the second malaria vaccine to become available.

An elderly man has become the first known death from Alaskapox, a virus thought to be transmitted from small mammals, with symptoms normally including a rash and muscle pain. Alaskan health officials have reported only six other cases of the virus since the first one in 2015.

4. More on health from Agenda

Healthcare suffers from a racial bias, with clinical trial participants overwhelmingly being white. Racism also affects many workers in the profession. This article outlines steps we can take to counter that.

Global research capacity is not evenly distributed, with Africa being particularly under-served. International research partnerships that make the best use of local knowledge are part of the solution.

Women spend more of their lives in poor health than men. One-shot HPV vaccines and self-administered family planning solutions are among the innovations that could drive greater equity in women's health.

Related topics:
Wellbeing and Mental HealthHealth and Healthcare Systems
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Contents
1. Striking cancer inequity as global disease burden grows – WHO2. Bird flu kills penguins near Antarctica3. News in brief: More health stories from around the world4. More on health from Agenda

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