World Cancer Day 2024: Date, history, theme, significance, signs and symptoms

World Cancer Day is celebrated on February 4 every year. It has been predicted that cancer cases in India would increase to a staggering 2 million by 2040.

World Cancer Day 2024: Cancer, the second leading cause of death worldwide, has become a major health concern in the past decades. The silent killer that often goes undetected in its early stages, spreads insidiously before manifesting into noticeable symptoms. Early detection is the key to surviving this deadly disease. In India too, the deadly disease is showing an upward trend. According to Global Cancer Observatory (GLOBOCAN), there were 19.3 million incident cancer cases worldwide for the year 2020. It has been predicted that cancer cases in India would increase to 2 million, a rise of 57.5 per cent in 2040 from 2020. As per National Cancer Registry Programme, one in nine people are likely to develop cancer in their lifetime. Lung and breast cancers were the leading sites of cancer in males and females, respectively. Lymphoid leukaemia emerged as the most common childhood cancer.

World Cancer Day is an international awareness day led by the Union for International Cancer Control (UICC) celebrated on February 4 every year. Cancer is caused by an uncontrolled, abnormal growth of cells in the body that causes lump or tumour in most causes. If left untreated, tumours can grow and spread to other body parts and affect all body functions.

History of World Cancer Day

World Cancer Day was first celebrated on February 4, 2000 at the World Summit Against Cancer for the New Millennium in Paris. The Paris Charter’s mission is to promote research, prevent cancer, improve patient services, raise awareness and mobilise the global community to make progress against cancer, and includes the adoption of World Cancer Day.

Theme of World Cancer Day

As per WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr Matshidiso Moeti, between 2022 and 2024, the focus of World Cancer Day is to help “Close the cancer gap.”

“This year marks the third and final year of the campaign. The theme for this year is ‘Together, we challenge those in power’. This theme encompasses the global demand for leaders to prioritize and invest in cancer prevention and care and to do more to achieve a just and cancer-free world, says Dr Moeti in the message for World Cancer Day.

World Cancer Day: Types, risk factors

Carcinoma, sarcoma, lymphoma or myeloma, leukaemia, brain and spinal cord cancers are some of its common types. Cancers can be caused by a set of modifiable or non-modifiable factors. Many cancers occur due to lifestyle factors like having too much alcohol, obesity, wrong eating habits, and lack of physical activity to name a few. Some people are also genetically predisposed to cancer which puts them at a greater risk of the disease. People with low immunity find themselves more at risk. Exposure to manmade source of radiation from x-rays, gamma rays could also play culprit. Certain infections can also be responsible for causing cancer and around 2.2 million cancer deaths annually are attributed to them.

Signs and symptoms of cancer

  • Unusual lumps or swelling
  • Fatigue
  • Changes in bowel habit
  • Sudden weight loss
  • Unexpected bleeding
  • Pain or ache that comes and goes
  • New moles or changes in appearance of moles
  • Appetite loss
  • A sore or ulcer that won’t heal
  • Heartburn or indigestion

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