Global cancer cases rose to 14.1 million new cases in 2012, with a “marked increase” in breast cancer diagnoses, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). New findings released by WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) on Thursday show data on cancer incidence, mortality, and prevalence around the world. According to the report, an estimated 8.2 million cancer-related deaths occurred in 2012. And there are approximately 32.6 million people over the age of 15 who have had a cancer diagnosis in the last five years. The most common cancers are lung cancer, breast cancer, and colorectal cancer. But the most deadly cancers have proven to be lung, liver, and stomach cancers.

WHO expressed concern over a sharp rise in breast cancer cases. In 2012, there were 6.3 million women alive who had been diagnosed with breast cancer within the last five years. Of those, 1.7 million had been diagnosed in 2012. That means the rate of breast cancer increased more than 20 percent since WHO’s 2008 estimates, and the mortality rate has risen 14 percent. Breast cancer is the most frequently diagnosed cancer among women worldwide, with trends showing a noticeable increase in more developed, industrialized regions of the world. For example, in Europe, breast cancer affects more than 90 per 100,000 women. In Africa, on the other hand, breast cancer impacts about 30 per 100,000 women. And although the rate of cancer in poorer countries is lower, people diagnosed with cancer in those regions are more likely to die from it.

“Breast cancer is also a leading cause of cancer death in the less developed countries of the world. This is partly because a shift in lifestyles is causing an increase in incidence, and partly because clinical advances to combat the disease are not reaching women in these regions,” said Dr. David Forman, head of the IARC Section of Cancer Information.

In more developed countries, there is a “rising burden” of cancer, which WHO associates with reproductive, dietary, and hormonal risk factors that come about as a result of rapid societal and economic changes. This new data, the organization hopes, will help to shift people’s thinking about cancer in industrialized society in order to foster medical interventions and individual lifestyle changes that will help to slow this growing problem. 

“An urgent need in cancer control today is to develop effective and affordable approaches to the early detection, diagnosis, and treatment of breast cancer among women living in less developed countries,” said Dr. Christopher Wild, director of IARC. “It is critical to bring morbidity and mortality in line with progress made in recent years in more developed parts of the world.”

For more information on estimated cancer incidence, mortality and prevalence worldwide, visit GLOBOCAN 2012.