Developing countries make up almost 80% of cancer fatalities with only 5% of global resources for cancer spent in the low and middle-income countries like India, according to a new report published in the medical journal, Lancet.

The report called "Expansion of Cancer Care and Control in Countries of Low and Middle income: A Call to Action" has a global expert panel, including Lance Armstrong, Julio Frenk, dean of the Harvard School of Public Health, Jeffrey D Sachs, Felicia Knaul, director of the Harvard Global Equity Initiative and Lawrence Shulman, chief medical officer at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

According to the panel, cancer is now a leading cause of death and disability with 7.6 million fatalities worldwide in 2008. They estimate case fatality from cancer to be 75% in countries of low income, 72% in countries of low-middle income, 64% in countries of high-middle income, and 46% in countries of high income.

Almost two-thirds of the 7.6 million deaths every year from cancer worldwide occur in low and middle-income countries. By 2050, low-income countries alone will account for three-quarters of all cancer deaths.

The economic toll of premature death and disability from cancer worldwide was $895 billion in 2008, excluding treatment costs, which is equivalent to 1.5% of the world's GDP, according to the American Cancer Society.

Cancer is the world's top "economic killer" costing more in productivity and lost life than AIDS, malaria, the flu and other infectious diseases.

Newly reported cancers from developing countries increased from 15% in 1970 to 56% in 2008. Rise in obesity rates, aging population, increasing pollution, tobacco use and alcohol intake seen in developing countries may contribute to the increase in health problems like cancer.

Experts say developing countries do not have the infrastructure in place to prevent cancer, diagnose it early or provide long-term treatment.
"Developed countries have been setting up plans and systems to cope with cancer all the time, but developing countries are not ready ... treatment, diagnoses are made very late or not at all, so the (death) toll is much, much higher," says Joseph Saba, a medical doctor and member of CanTreat International, which comprises experts from leading international cancer organizations.

According to a report by CanTreat, a breast cancer patient has an 84 percent chance of surviving for at least five more years in the United States compared to 12 percent in Gambia.

Childhood cancer cure rates are 75 percent in high-income countries but only 10 to 15 percent in low-income countries.

"We propose that cancer care and control become rapidly and broadly available as quickly as possible with the focus on cancers that can be prevented or cured, or, for cases in which neither is possible, palliated," the panel observed.