Cancer in Africa

To match Insight CANCER-AFRICA/GHANACancer is a leading cause of death all around the world. It accounted for 7.6 million deaths (around 13% of all deaths) in 2008, and is projected to kill 13 million people annually by 2030. For some reason, there is a common misperception that cancer is “not an African problem”. In reality, the risk of dying from many cancers is much higher in Africa than it is in developed countries–in fact, the mortality rate from cancer is around 80%. Many African countries lack treatment facilities and programs for education, prevention and early detection that can save lives.

Below, we’ve included some statistics and facts about common cancers throughout the African continent. To learn more about cancer in Africa and in northern Tanzania in particular, click here to view our white paper, “Meeting the Challenge of Cancer Care in Northern Tanzania”. 

Adult Cancer in Africa: The Facts

  • Africa had 715,000 new cases of cancer in 2008 and 542,000 deaths from cancer. This number is projected to nearly double by 2030 to 1.28M new cases and 970,000 deaths. (Per International Association for Research on Cancer (IARC) – 2008)
  • The most common cancers are Kaposi’s Sarcoma and Esophageal.
  • Uterine cervical cancer is the most common form of cancer, and ultimately the highest cause of cancer death, for women in Africa.
  • There is a 69% mortality rate for women diagnosed with cervix cancer in Eastern Africa.
  • Breast cancer is the second most common cancer in women in Africa and is often not diagnosed until it is in an advanced stage due in large part to lack of screening and early detection, and thus is fatal for 56% of the women diagnosed.

Pediatric Cancer in Africa: The Facts

  • In developed countries, about 88% of children with cancer are cured, while only 20% of African children are cured.
  • Burkitt’s Lymphoma is far more common in Tanzania and Eastern Africa than in the more developed world, and highly fatal mostly due to lack of available treatment for most of the population.
  • There is a 75-80% mortality rate for children diagnosed with Burkitt’s Lymphoma in Africa.

Did you know? Many cancers in eastern Africa are preventable and/or treatable. Some common cancers in Tanzania are linked to infectious agents, which means they are potentially preventable; education on how to prevent infection with causative agents and wider accessibility of relevant vaccines could dramatically reduce cancer rates in the region. Moreover, many of the most common cancers in Tanzania are highly curable if detected early enough; screening and early detection programs could vastly improve survival rates and improve quality of life for cancer patients in northern Tanzania.