What if everybody around the world stopped their busy lives for just a minute and thought about cancer? That’s exactly what the Union for International Cancer Control (UICC) hopes will happen today, World Cancer Day.

World Cancer Day — What It is


The UICC, a multinational non-profit organization founded in 1933, launched World Cancer Day at the First World Summit Against Cancer in 2000 to raise awareness about the disease. The UICC’s ultimate goal is to eliminate cancers as life-threatening illnesses, but they have some work to do. Currently 7.6 million deaths (about 13 percent of all deaths) worldwide are caused by cancer or related complications. And as many as 30 percent of cancer deaths are due to preventable behaviors including smoking, obesity, and alcohol consumption. In 2010, the global cost of cancer — largely from productivity lost because of disability or premature death — was $290 billion. If we don’t change how we think about healthcare and sickness on an international level, that number is expected to swell to $458 billion by 2030 — with most of the bill falling on middle- and lower-income countries.

This year, World Cancer Day is focusing on four myths surrounding “the big C.”

Myth One: Cancer is just a health issue. Not true — in reality, cancer affects a country’s economy, society, and overall development.

Myth Two: Cancer is a disease of the wealthy, elderly, and developed countries. False — cancer can touch all people, regardless of socioeconomic status, nationality, and age.

Myth Three: Cancer is a death sentence. Wrong — these days, many cancers can be managed and cured with effective treatments.

Myth Four: Cancer is my fate. No — preventative measures can reduce the likelihood of many people developing cancer in the first place.

By addressing these misconceptions, the UICC hopes separate the truth from the hyperbole and encourage more people to seek preventative measures, potentially saving millions of lives every year.

Get the Facts — How to Participate

So what can we do to help out? The easiest way to get involved is to sign the World Cancer Declaration, which outlines 11 steps to drastically reduce cancer’s reach by 2020. Measures include lower rates of tobacco use and obesity worldwide, promoting vaccination programs for Hepatitis B and HPV, training health workers to specialize in cancer care, and educating the public about cancer.

The next step is to get talking, in person and online, via website badges, social media, and apps. By opening up about one of the world’s most serious health problems, we can help take the important steps necessary to dispel the stigma of cancer — and ultimately work toward the necessary cures.

The American Cancer Society (@ACSGlobal) is hosting a Twitter chat starting at 11am Eastern time. Follow along with the hashtag #WorldCancerDay to show support, install the “Cancer Myths vs. Facts” Facebook app, or get involved in the UICC advocacy campaign.

Are you participating in World Cancer Day this year? Share why this day is important to you in the comments below or tweet the author at @SophBreene.