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Government action now will save lives in the future

Stronger policies could reduce human and economic cost of preventable cancer

(New York, USA) –Cancer is the second-leading cause of death after cardiovascular disease, causing 8.93 million deaths in 2016, according to the most recent Global Burden of Disease report. At least one-third of all cancer cases are preventable and tobacco alone causes more than 20 percent of cancer deaths. Other common risk factors for preventable cancers include unhealthy diets, alcohol consumption, environmental hazards such as poor air quality, and low physical activity – each of which can be reduced through strong policy interventions. Vital Strategies urges governments to implement policies to address these risks.

“We cannot effectively reduce the human and economic cost of cancer by focusing solely on diagnosis and treatment,” said José Luis Castro, President and CEO of Vital Strategies. “Strong action to reduce preventable cancers makes social and economic sense. Many of the policies that are proven to be successful in changing unhealthy behaviors could lead to fewer cancer cases and deaths. A number of these policies are low-cost and, in the case of taxes on unhealthy products like tobacco and sugary drinks, can be revenue-positive for governments – increasing the funds available for health priorities, including cancer care. The global movement to prevent and one day find a cure for cancer is one of the most urgent challenges of our time. On World Cancer Day, Vital Strategies is proud to be a part of this effort, and of the greater global community united to end cancer.”

According to the WHO Report on the Global Tobacco Epidemic, 2017, around 4.7 billion people worldwide are protected by at least one best practice tobacco control measure, but few countries have implemented all MPOWER measures, an approach that has proved to be highly effective in reducing tobacco use in countries like Turkey. In addition, 57 countries have yet to adopt a single MPOWER measure at the highest level of achievement recommended by World Health Organization. The least adopted MPOWER measure is increasing tobacco taxes, with only 10 percent of the world’s population covered by effective rates of tobacco taxation. In addition to working with health advocates and city and national governments to reduce tobacco use, Vital Strategies supports the Prevent20 coalition of cancer organizations, which works to encourage governments to increase tobacco taxes as a cancer prevention measure.

Environmental issues like air pollution are among growing concerns for public health experts. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has linked environmental issues to at least 16 different cancers. It’s estimated that 92% of people globally live in places with dangerous levels of air pollution, which is estimated by experts to be responsible for 16.5 percent of the world’s 1.7 million annual lung cancer deaths. Academic analysis indicates that the built environment also contributes to the burden. Vital Strategies’ Environmental Health Division is working with governments to increase technical capacity to address environmental threats to health, including cancer.

About Vital Strategies

Vital Strategies is a global health organization that believes every person should be protected by a strong public health system. Our team combines evidence-based strategies with innovation to help develop and implement sound public health policies, manage programs efficiently, strengthen data systems, conduct research, and design strategic communication campaigns for policy and behavior change. To find out more, please visit or Twitter @VitalStrat.

For further information or to arrange an interview with a Vital Strategies public health expert, please contact