Cancer now the world's biggest killer

CANCER is officially the world's, and Australia's, biggest killer; surpassing that of heart disease in sending humans to the grave, the latest World Cancer Report has found.

The report, released on Tuesday by the World Health Organisation, found the global burden of cancer reached 14 million new cases in 2012, a figure expected to rise to 22 million a year in the next 20 years.

The report also found 8.2 million people died of cancer in 2012 - 40,000 of those were Australians.

The report updates the last global figures on the burden of cancer from six years ago, and paints a dire situation expected to evolve in the next two decades.

It found the most common cancers in 2012 were lung (1.8 million), breast (1.7 million), and large bowel (1.4 million); while lung cancer was the biggest killer at 1.6 million deaths, or just under 20% of all cancer-related fatalities.

The rise in cancer in western countries, including Australia, was attributed largely to ageing populations and increasing screening numbers, but lifestyle was also a major factor.

Smoking, poor diet, alcohol consumption and inactive lifestyles in western and developing nations were key factors attributed to rising cancer rates across the globe.

The report found as many as 3.7 million cancer-related deaths could have been prevented by lifestyle changes like quitting smoking, cutting alcohol consumption and exercise.

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