Avoidable mortality: The core of the global cancer divide

Felicia Marie Knaul, Hector Arreola-Ornelas, Natalia M. Rodriguez, Oscar Méndez-Carniado, Xiaoxiao Jiang Kwete, Esteban Puentes-Rosas, Afsan Bhadelia

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Purpose The incidence of infection-associated cancers and lethality of cancers amenable to treatment are closely correlated with the income of countries. We analyzed a core part of this global cancer divide-the distribution of premature mortality across country income groups and cancers-applying novel approaches to measure avoidable mortality and identify priorities for public policy. Methods We analyzed avoidable cancer mortality using set lower- and upper-bound age limits of 65 and 75 years (empirical approach), applying cancer-specific and country income group-specific ages of death (feasibility approach), and applying cancer-specific ages of death of high-income countries to all low- and middle-income countries (LMICs; social justice approach). We applied these methods to 2015 mortality data on 16 cancers for which prevention is possible and/or treatment is likely to result in cure or significant increase in life expectancy. Results At least 30% and as much as 50% of cancer deaths are premature, corresponding to between 2.6 and 4.3 million deaths each year, and 70% to 80% are concentrated in LMICs. Using the feasibility approach, 36% of cancer deaths are avoidable; with the social justice approach, 45% of cancer deaths are avoidable. Five cancer types-breast, colorectal, lung, liver, and stomach-account for almost 75% of avoidable cancer deaths in LMICs and worldwide. Conclusion Each year, millions of premature cancer deaths could be avoided with interventions focused on four priority areas: infection-associated cancers, lifestyle and risk factors, women's cancers, and children's cancers. Our analysis of the global burden and the specific cancer types associated with avoidable cancer mortality suggests significant opportunities for health systems to redress the inequity of the global cancer divide.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of Global Oncology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Mar 1 2018

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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