While population health efforts in low- and middle-income countries largely focus on infectious disease epidemics such as HIV, tuberculosis, and malaria, increasingly chronic diseases are emerging as significant and growing health threats. Foremost among those threats is cancer.

ICAP’s global director, Wafaa El-Sadr, MD, MPH, MPA, has co-authored an incisive new article, The Looming Threat: Cancer in Sub-Saharan Africa, that explores how cancer has become a rising public health concern in sub-Saharan African countries. In penning the article, which has just been published in The Oncologist journal, El-Sadr was joined by Alfred I. Neugut, MD, PhD, of the Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center at Columbia University, and Paul Ruff, MD, of the Division of Medical Oncology at the University of Witwatersrand Faculty of Health Sciences.

The authors argue that “two parallel phenomena” – the successes in addressing infectious diseases through treatment and prevention combined with lifestyle changes spurred on by economic growth – have led to an evolving public health panorama in African countries. The authors cite ample evidence that under such conditions, factors such as fatty diets, tobacco use, and sedentary diets lead to increased incidence of cancer in the population.

“There is an urgent need to put measures in place to address the risk factors for various cancers in order to stem the rise in cancer rates,” note the authors,, stressing tobacco cessation campaigns, vaccination programs to protect against cervical cancer caused by human papillomavirus, and screenings for breast and colon cancer, among others. They also see an urgent need for investment in capacity for cancer diagnosis and care in these countries.

The commentary is available here at The Oncologist online.

The article emerged from the recently launched collaboration between ICAP and the Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center (HICCC) at Columbia University. The ICAP-HICCC Cancer Initiative (IHCI) aims to advance training, research, education, and programs focused on cancer diagnosis prevention and management in low and middle-income countries. This new webinar series marks the initiative’s inaugural event since its establishment in January 2021. Learn more about the ICAP-HICCC Cancer Initiative.


About ICAP

A major global health organization that has been improving public health in countries around the world for nearly two decades, ICAP works to transform the health of populations through innovation, science, and global collaboration. Based at Columbia Mailman School of Public Health, ICAP has projects in more than 30 countries, working side-by-side with ministries of health and local governmental, non-governmental, academic, and community partners to confront some of the world’s greatest health challenges. Through evidence-informed programs, meaningful research, tailored technical assistance, effective training and education programs, and rigorous surveillance to measure and evaluate the impact of public health interventions, ICAP aims to realize a global vision of healthy people, empowered communities, and thriving societies. Online at www.icap.columbia.edu

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