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21 Countries that Have the Highest Rates of Cancer Deaths

In this article, we will be taking a look at the 21 countries that have the highest rates of cancer deaths. If you do not want to learn about the global cancer care market, head straight to the 5 Countries that Have the Highest Rates of Cancer Deaths.

The global impact of cancer is staggering, with millions of lives affected each year. When examining the prevalence of cancer-related mortality, certain countries stand out for their exceptionally high rates of deaths attributed to this disease. Understanding the factors contributing to these elevated rates is crucial for implementing effective prevention and treatment strategies. In this exploration, we delve into the countries grappling with the highest rates of cancer deaths, shedding light on the challenges they face and the initiatives aimed at mitigating this significant public health burden. 

Navigating the Oncology Horizon: Trends, Projections, and Shaping Factors 

The global oncology market is experiencing robust growth, with significant advancements in research and development leading to the discovery of novel treatments. In 2022, the market size exceeded $280 billion and is projected to reach $690 billion by 2032, exhibiting a 9.7% compound annual growth rate (CAGR). Oncology trial starts have increased by 22% since 2018, reflecting the industry's focus on innovation and patient outcomes. In the United States, the burden of cancer remains substantial, with an estimated 1,958,310 new cancer cases and 609,820 cancer-related deaths expected in 2023. The adoption of advanced cancer diagnostic and treatment methods has contributed to a 29% decline in cancer deaths since 1991. The US accounts for a significant portion of the global oncology market, holding 46% of the market share in 2022. 

Europe presents a promising market for oncology due to rising technological advancements in cancer diagnostics and the increasing prevalence of cancer cases. In 2020, Europe recorded approximately 2.7 million new cancer cases and 1.3 million cancer deaths. The region is anticipated to be the most opportunistic market for oncology during the forecast period. 

The global rise in cancer cases can be attributed to factors such as increased consumption of alcohol and tobacco. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) estimates a significant increase in new cancer cases globally from 2020 to 2040. Common side effects of cancer treatment, like chemotherapy, can lead to long-term damage to organs and healthy cells, impacting market demand. 

Understanding the Global Impact and Financial Challenges of Cancer 

Cancer, recognized as malignant tumours or neoplasms, is a devastating illness with profound global implications. It manifests in various parts of the body and is a leading cause of death worldwide, claiming nearly 10 million lives in 2020, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Approximately one in six deaths globally is attributed to cancer. 

In 2020, there were over 18 million cancer diagnoses reported by the World Cancer Research Fund, with an age-standardized rate of 190 cases per 100,000 individuals. Men had a higher rate at 206.9 cases per 100,000 compared to women's 178.1 cases. Despite Europe representing only a tenth of the world's population, it bears a disproportionate burden, with approximately 25% of global cancer cases occurring there. 

Innovative cancer treatment modalities, such as molecular and immune therapies, targeted agents, and advanced diagnostic technologies, are driving progress globally. However, the rising costs associated with these treatments are leading to increased financial toxicity for cancer patients, affecting their well-being and quality of life. 

Cancer patients endure substantial out-of-pocket expenses, with median annual costs ranging from $1,730 to $4,727, surpassing those of non-cancer patients by approximately $976 to $1,170. Between 22% and 64% of cancer patients experience stress over medical bills. The escalating costs of cancer care exacerbate financial distress, notably impacting low-income and uninsured individuals. 

The Annual Report to the Nation 2022 highlighted increasing incidence trends in childhood cancers, including leukaemia, brain and other nervous system cancers, and lymphoma, from 2001-2018. In the context of the Global Economic Cost of 29 Cancers study, the top five cancers with the highest economic costs are tracheal, bronchus, and lung cancer (15.4%); colon and rectum cancer (10.9%); breast cancer (9.6%); liver cancer (9.5%); and stomach cancer (7.6%). 

Leading Innovators Shaping the Future of Cancer Treatment 

Prominent players in the cancer treatment industry include Pfizer Inc. (NYSE: PFE), Merck & Co., Inc. (NYSE: MRK), Bristol Myers Squibb (NYSE: BMY), and Guardant Health (NASDAQ: GH). These companies drive innovation and possess significant market capitalization. 

Pfizer Inc. (NYSE: PFE) recently bolstered its Oncology pipeline by acquiring Seagen Inc., doubling its efforts in cancer treatment with a $43 billion investment. Additionally, Pfizer's collaboration with the American Cancer Society underscores its commitment to addressing cancer care disparities through initiatives like "Change the Odds." 

Merck & Co., Inc. (NYSE: MRK) is renowned for Keytruda (pembrolizumab), with multiple FDA approvals for treating cervical and lung cancer. Despite setbacks in specific trials, Merck & Co., Inc. (NYSE: MRK) continues exploring innovative cancer treatments, including personalized mRNA therapy in partnership with Moderna. 

Guardant Health, Inc. (NASDAQ: GH) specializes in precision oncology through advanced blood tests like Guardant Reveal and Guardant360, offering insights into disease recurrence and treatment response. Collaborations with companies like Hikma aim to expand global access to these tests, enhancing cancer care on a broader scale. 

21 Countries that Have the Highest Rates of Cancer deaths
21 Countries that Have the Highest Rates of Cancer deaths

A researcher in a lab holding a bispecific antibody, illustrating the leading edge of cancer treatments.

Our Methodology 

For our methodology, we have ranked the countries with the highest cancer death rates based on the global cancer mortality rates ASR/100,000. For data accuracy, we relied on the World Cancer Research Fund International. 

Here is our list of the 21 countries that have the highest rates of cancer deaths.  

21. Turkey 

Global Mortality Rate: 119.9  

Turkey, one of the countries that have the highest rates of cancer deaths, faces significant challenges in cancer care, with it being the second leading cause of death. Common cancers include lung, prostate, skin, breast, and stomach cancers, predominantly affecting individuals over 40, with a higher incidence in men. Lung cancer is particularly prevalent with increasing mortality rates. The financial burden is substantial, with 210,537 cancer deaths in 2018, prompting investments in healthcare infrastructure. 

20. Lithuania  

Global Mortality Rate: 121.6 

Lithuania, a country with the most cancer deaths, grapples with significant cancer care challenges, monitoring closely through the Cancer Registry. Pancreatic cancer sees rising incidence and mortality rates. Breast and prostate cancer mortality remains high, with 14,963 prostate cancer deaths from 1986 to 2020. Kidney cancer mortality, at 4.9 cases per 100,000, is notably high globally. Treatment costs vary, emphasizing the need for accessible care.  

19. Barbados 

Global Mortality Rate: 121.8 

Barbados grapples with significant cancer-related mortality, with prostate, colorectal, breast, stomach, and lung cancers prevalent. In 2015, 1,144 new cases led to 523 deaths, with a predicted increase by 2035. Breast cancer is a significant concern, with a mortality rate of 32.9 per 100,000. Colorectal cancer ranks third, with high incidence, especially among males. The healthcare expenditure was around 3.57% of GDP in 2020, with accessible chemotherapy, radiotherapy, and community-based. 

18. Latvia 

Global Mortality Rate: 123.6 

Latvia, standing among the countries that have the most cancer deaths, faces significant challenges in cancer care, with lung, colorectal, breast, and prostate cancers being the most common. The cancer care market involves public and private providers offering essential treatments and specialized services. Latvia has one of Europe's highest cancer mortality rates, partly due to preventable lifestyle factors like smoking and alcohol consumption. Healthcare expenditure in 2023 was around 8.8% of GDP, with ongoing government investment in improving cancer care infrastructure and access to innovative treatments. 

17. Papua New Guinea 

Global Mortality Rate: 124.9 

Papua New Guinea is one of the countries that have the highest rates of cancer deaths, with cervical, breast, prostate, colorectal, lung, and liver cancers being common. Limited resources lead to substantial treatment costs, hindering access to services such as surgery and chemotherapy. The cancer care market struggles with availability of palliative care, staff shortages, and limited options for pain management.

16. Armenia  

Global Mortality Rate: 125.8  

Armenia struggles with the highest global cancer death rate, primarily due to lung cancer, affecting men aged 60-80 significantly. Over 80% of cases are diagnosed at late stages, contributing to high mortality. Limited access to essential medications and centralized radiotherapy services in Yerevan hinders cancer care. Implementing structured screening protocols, like low-dose CT scans, could offset costs and improve early detection.  

15. Uruguay 

Global Mortality Rate: 127.1 

Uruguay ranks fifteenth among the countries with the highest number of cancer deaths, with breast, prostate, colorectal, and lung cancers being prevalent. Collaborations with international organizations aim to strengthen cancer control capacities. Despite declining mortality rates since 1990, Uruguay faces persistent challenges with breast, lung, and prostate cancers. Cancer accounts for 5.6% of premature deaths from non-communicable diseases. 

14. Bosnia and Herzegovina 

Global Mortality Rate: 127.3 

In Bosnia and Herzegovina, cancer mortality rates are concerning, with lung cancer in males and breast cancer in females being the most common types. Common cancers include colorectal, liver, lung, pancreatic, prostate, stomach, brain, and CNS cancers. Tobacco use, alcohol consumption, obesity, and infections significantly contribute to the cancer burden. 

13. Moldova 

Global Mortality Rate: 127.8 

Moldova faces significant challenges in cancer care, with breast cancer being the most common among females. The overall cancer mortality rate is 128.7 per 100,000 persons annually, making Moldova stand among the countries that have the highest rates of cancer deaths. The investment case for cancer care highlights trends in breast and lung cancers, emphasizing the need for better healthcare infrastructure. 

12. China  

Global Mortality Rate: 129 

China bears a substantial cancer burden, with 4,546,400 new cases and 2,992,600 deaths in 2020, accounting for a significant global portion. The most common cancers include lung, colorectal, and breast cancers, with lifestyle-related cancers on the rise. Digestive-system cancers like oesophagal, nasopharynx, liver, and stomach cancers are prevalent. China accounted for 25.1% of global new cancer cases and 30.2% of global deaths in 2020, driven by population factors like increases in adult population size and ageing. 

11. Romania 

Global Mortality Rate: 130.9 

Romania, one of the countries with highest cancer deaths, faces significant challenges in cancer care, with lung cancer leading to mortality, followed by colorectal and breast cancers. Romania has approved a National Plan for Beating Cancer to address this, aiming for integrated care, early access to therapies, and prevention strategies. The plan is funded by the Ministry of Health, with an annual budget of 20% for national health programs. Cancer accounts for 37.4% of non-communicable disease premature deaths in Romania, indicating a high burden. The health system has moderate capacity, with several treatment services available per 10,000 cancer patients. 

10. French Polynesia 

Global Mortality Rate: 131.7 

French Polynesia stands tenth among the countries that have the most cancer deaths. The most common cancers include breast, prostate, lung, colorectal, and uterine cancers. Breast cancer has an incidence rate of 70.5 per 100,000 and a mortality rate of 21.6. Prostate cancer has an incidence rate of 66.5 and a mortality rate of 19.9. Lung cancer also presents a significant challenge, with an incidence rate of 38.1 and a mortality rate of 30.2. 

9. Croatia 

Global Mortality Rate: 132.7 

Croatia grapples with high cancer mortality rates, ranking among the EU's highest. Lung cancer is most common in men, leading to over 2000 deaths annually, while breast cancer, the most diagnosed malignancy, caused 752 deaths in 2019. Despite spending above the EU average on cancer treatment, challenges persist in timely and quality care provision, exacerbated by rural-urban disparities in access to treatment. 

8. Poland 

Global Mortality Rate: 136.8  

In 2019, Poland faced a significant cancer burden, with 171,218 incident cases and 100,324 deaths. Common cancers among men included prostate, lung, colon, urinary bladder, and rectum, with lung cancer being a leading cause of mortality. Among women, breast, lung, corpus uteri, colon, and ovary cancers were prevalent, with lung cancer also a leading cause of death. Poland's oncology spending increased from EUR 1.05 billion in 2009 to EUR 2.3 billion in 2019. Prostate and lung cancers dominate male cases, influenced by demographic changes and carcinogen exposure. The investment case aims to scale up essential services to address the significant burden of cancer mortality, with approximately 4,500 women dying each year from cancer. 

7. Zimbabwe 

Global Mortality Rate: 137.1  

Zimbabwe experiences high rates of cancer mortality and incidence, with cases nearly doubling from 2009 to 2018. This increase can be attributed to behavioral risks and challenges in accessing care. Cervical cancer is prevalent, prompting vaccination and screening programs. Breast and prostate cancers also rise. The National Cancer Control Plan, supported by WHO, focuses on prevention, diagnosis, treatment, and research. Cancer accounts for 32.1% of premature deaths from non-communicable diseases. Cervical cancer remains a significant cause of death among women. 

6. Samoa  

Global Mortality Rate: 139.8 

Western Samoa has relatively low cancer incidence rates compared to other Polynesian populations. Stomach cancer is the most common cancer in males, while breast and cervix cancers are equally prevalent in females, making up almost 40% of all cancers. Samoans have a lower thyroid cancer incidence than other Pacific Island populations. Approximately ten women are diagnosed with cervical cancer annually in Samoa, with six deaths affecting a population of 68,257 women at risk, making Samoa stand sixth among the countries that have the highest rates of cancer deaths, American Samoan women face higher cervical cancer risk compared to non-Hispanic white women. 

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Disclosure. None: The 21 Countries that Have the Highest Rates of Cancer Deaths is originally published on Insider Monkey.