Childhood cancers on the rise in Africa: WHO

3d illustration of a cancer cell and lymphocytes
3D illustration of a cancer cell and lymphocytes. (Getty Images)

The World Health Organisation urged African governments to take concrete steps to boost access to effective early detection and affordable treatment of cancer after noting that childhood cancers are on the rise in the region.

An African child diagnosed with cancer is 70% more likely to die than a child in a high-income country, according to the WHO.

Leukemia and non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma are the top two cancers diagnosed in children in Africa.

Leukemia is a type of cancer in one’s blood and bone marrow. It is caused by the rapid production of abnormal white blood cells. These white blood cells are unable to fight infections and weaken the ability of the bone marrow to produce red blood cells and platelets.

Non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL), the most common form of blood cancer, forms in the bloodstream or lymph system, a network of vessels, nodes and organs that carry immune cells throughout the body.

Most forms of NHL develop when immune cells mutate or get damaged and start to grow out of control, crowding out healthy immune cells. These cells may also form tumors in the lymph nodes, spleen and other organs.

The WHO says poor cancer surveillance and a lack of research in Africa poses a great challenge in addressing the problem of cancer.

During a meeting on the sidelines of the just concluded Extraordinary Session of the Assembly in Niger, African First Ladies called for greater resources in the fight against cancer in the continent.

The First Ladies also called for a rise in taxes for cancer-causing products, such as tobacco and alcohol.

It is estimated that about 70% of deaths from cancer occur in low- and middle-income countries.

The rise in the number of cases of cancer is due to ageing populations and the increasing adoption of risk behaviour such as: consumption of unhealthy diets, lack of physical exercise, harmful use of alcohol and tobacco use.

According to the WHO, there were 506,508 deaths resulting from cancer in Africa in 2018.

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