Cancer risk in Western countries

Since the beginning of the XX century, there has been an increase in the numbers of colorectal cancer, revealing it as a modern disease.

However, case numbers (incidence), like with breast cancer, vary according to the country.

Incidence – number of cases. Incidence rates - number of new cases in a population at risk, during a given time period.

Estimated age-standardized rates of incidence of colorectal cancer in 2018, worldwide for both sexes.

According to the most recent data (2012) from WHO, there are important geographic differences in colorectal cancer incidence and mortality, especially between developed and developing nations. 

The numbers of those affected remain much higher in developed countries, up to 10 times higher than in developing countries: 

  • The highest incidence rates are found in Hungary, Korea, Slovakia, Norway, Denmark, Slovenia and Portugal. 
  • Lowest incidence rates are found in African nations - except those in the south - and countries from the center and south of Asia (including India). 
  • (Global data - IARC )

The differences are less striking when mortality rates are compared, most probably because medicals services are better in the developed world, so fewer patients die than in the developing world.

Nonetheless, death rates in Central and Eastern Europe (the highest in the world) are still 6 times higher for men and 4 times higher for women, when compared with those of Western Africa (which has the lowest colorectal cancer mortality rate).

Environmental factors have a crucial role in this pattern. One of the most important influences is the western lifestyle .

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