Cancer in South Africa

9.6 million people die from cancer every year, making it the second leading cause of death globally. Research conducted in 2020 showed that out of 54 African countries, South Africa ranked third highest for new cases (at close to 110,000) and in the top 3 for deaths (at over 56,000). The graph below shows the total number of deaths caused by 29 different types of cancer: 

There are over 100 different types of cancers that are known to exist. They are named either by the area of the body where they were formed or by the types of cells that formed them. The top 3 cancers affecting men in South Africa are prostate, colorectal, and lung, while the top top 3 cancers affecting women in South Africa are breast, cervical, and colorectal. Although the graph below is not specific to South Africa, it shows that three of the cancers which most commonly affect South Africans are either largely or entirely caused by environmental, rather than genetic, factors: 

The incidence rate of cancer in South Africa, and globally, is rising. However, the death rate globally is falling. When the numbers are adjusted to take population growth and age into consideration (as can be seen in the graph below) the age-standardized death rate fell by 15% between 1990 and 2019:

We can do better than this! As the saying goes, knowledge is power. These statistics aren’t intended to cause feelings of despair, but rather to galvanize our society into taking action to improve them. Unfortunately, the National Strategic Cancer Framework (2017-2022), which had big plans to improve cancer prevalence rates, has not lived up to expectations. Due to a variety of factors (including cost of infrastructure, inadequate access to medication, and weak health referral pathways) prevention, screening, and treatment strategies from the government have been limited. Everything we do at The Cancer Foundation is focused on reducing the number of people who are affected by this dreaded disease by empowering individuals (like you!) to take their health into their own hands.

Read our lifestyle advice and previous articles for information about what you can start doing today to lower your cancer risk!

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