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Expand chart
Data: Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation; Chart: Harry Stevens/Axios

Between 2007 and 2017, cancer deaths increased from 7.6 million to 9.6 million globally — but the vast majority of that increase was in low- and middle-income countries.

The big picture: In wealthy nations, lower smoking rates, personalized medicine, and novel treatments like immunotherapy are reducing cancer rates and improving survival, even among aging populations. The opposite is true in poorer nations, which saw 80% of the increase, especially in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.

What's happening: Population growth and aging are fueling a rise in cancers and noncommunicable diseases in poor countries, which are ill-prepared to handle them.

  • In Bangladesh, for example, the median age increased from 19 to 26 between 1990 and 2015, even as the population grew nearly 50%. As a result, Bangladesh gained 38 million more adults between the ages of 25 and 64.

Where it stands: Such dramatic demographic changes are accelerating a shift from the infectious and nutritional diseases that mostly affect children to cancer and the other noncommunicable diseases that mostly afflict adults. Treating cancers requires more health infrastructure like clinics, labs and hospitals, and skilled workforces to make accurate diagnoses and perform radiotherapy, chemotherapy and surgery.

  • Yes, but: That infrastructure is expensive, far beyond most countries’ health budgets. All 48 governments in sub-Saharan Africa together spent less on health in 2014 ($67 billion) than the government of Australia ($68 billion). Many developing countries cannot keep up with the pace and scale of the health changes in their populations.

The bottom line: Much of the progress being made on cancer is not reaching poor countries. International investment would be needed to improve their health infrastructure, but in the meantime, efforts to increase tobacco controls and vaccinations that prevent cervical cancer could help to slow the global rise of cancer.

Thomas J. Bollyky is senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and the author of “Plagues and the Paradox of Progress: Why the World is Getting Healthier in Worrisome Ways.”

Go deeper

Updated 15 mins ago - Politics & Policy

British national named in Colleyville synagogue standoff

A law enforcement vehicle sits near the Congregation Beth Israel synagogue on Jan. 16. Photo: Brandon Bell/Getty Images

British national Malik Faisal Akram took four people hostage at a Texas synagogue outside Fort Worth on Saturday, the FBI said in a statement.

State of play: Authorities had initially declined to release the name of the 44-year-old suspect or identify the hostages, all adults, though police chief Michael Miller confirmed that one of those held was Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker, who leads the congregation.

Updated 27 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

  1. Health: Concerns grow over CDC's isolation guidelines — Experts warn of more COVID-19 variants after Omicron — WHO recommends 2 new treatments — What "mild" really means when it comes to Omicron — Deaths are climbing as cases skyrocket.
  2. Vaccines: America's vaccination drive runs out of gas— Puerto Rico expands booster shot requirements— Supreme Court blocks Biden's vaccine mandate for large employers.
  3. Politics: Vivek Murthy calls SCOTUS vaccine mandate block "a setback for public health" — Focus group says Biden weak on COVID response, strong on democracy
  4. Economy: America's labor shortage is bigger than the pandemic— — CDC COVID guidance for cruise ships to be optional starting Saturday — The cost of testing.
  5. States: West Virginia governor feeling "extremely unwell" after positive test — Youngkin ends mandates for masks in schools and COVID vaccinations for state workers — America struggles to keep schools open
  6. World: Beijing reports first local Omicron case weeks before Winter Olympics — Teachers in France stage mass walkout over COVID protocols.
  7. Variant tracker
6 hours ago - Sports

Novak Djokovic loses Australian visa appeal

Novak Djokovic of Serbia plays a forehand during a practice session ahead of the 2022 Australian Open at Melbourne Park on January 14, 2022. Photo: Daniel Pockett/Getty Images

Tennis star Novak Djokovic left Australia on Sunday evening, facing a three-year visa ban after an appeals court in the country revoked his visa.

Driving the news: Djokovic will not be able to defend his Australian Open title when the tournament starts in Melbourne. The World No. 1 is looking to break a three-way tie with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal for most Grand Slam men's singles titles.

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