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Original Investigation
September 27, 2019

Global, Regional, and National Cancer Incidence, Mortality, Years of Life Lost, Years Lived With Disability, and Disability-Adjusted Life-Years for 29 Cancer Groups, 1990 to 2017: A Systematic Analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study

Global Burden of Disease Cancer Collaboration
JAMA Oncol. 2019;5(12):1749-1768. doi:10.1001/jamaoncol.2019.2996
Key Points

Question  What is the cancer burden over time at the global and national levels, measured in incidence, mortality, years lived with disability, years of life lost, and disability-adjusted life-years (DALYs), and how does it compare with other diseases?

Findings  Results of this systematic analysis show that in 2017 there were 24.5 million incident cases (16.8 million without nonmelanoma skin cancer), 9.6 million deaths, and 233.5 million DALYs due to cancer; between 2007 and 2017, incident cases increased by 33%, with the lowest increase in the most developed countries, and between 1990 and 2017 neoplasms increased among the top causes of DALYs from the sixth to the second place. Fifty-one percent of cancer cases occurred in countries of high Socio-demographic Index, but only 30% of cancer deaths and 24% of cancer DALYs.

Meaning  To ensure sustainable global development, increased efforts are needed in cancer prevention and in ensuring universal access to cancer care.


Importance  Cancer and other noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) are now widely recognized as a threat to global development. The latest United Nations high-level meeting on NCDs reaffirmed this observation and also highlighted the slow progress in meeting the 2011 Political Declaration on the Prevention and Control of Noncommunicable Diseases and the third Sustainable Development Goal. Lack of situational analyses, priority setting, and budgeting have been identified as major obstacles in achieving these goals. All of these have in common that they require information on the local cancer epidemiology. The Global Burden of Disease (GBD) study is uniquely poised to provide these crucial data.

Objective  To describe cancer burden for 29 cancer groups in 195 countries from 1990 through 2017 to provide data needed for cancer control planning.

Evidence Review  We used the GBD study estimation methods to describe cancer incidence, mortality, years lived with disability, years of life lost, and disability-adjusted life-years (DALYs). Results are presented at the national level as well as by Socio-demographic Index (SDI), a composite indicator of income, educational attainment, and total fertility rate. We also analyzed the influence of the epidemiological vs the demographic transition on cancer incidence.

Findings  In 2017, there were 24.5 million incident cancer cases worldwide (16.8 million without nonmelanoma skin cancer [NMSC]) and 9.6 million cancer deaths. The majority of cancer DALYs came from years of life lost (97%), and only 3% came from years lived with disability. The odds of developing cancer were the lowest in the low SDI quintile (1 in 7) and the highest in the high SDI quintile (1 in 2) for both sexes. In 2017, the most common incident cancers in men were NMSC (4.3 million incident cases); tracheal, bronchus, and lung (TBL) cancer (1.5 million incident cases); and prostate cancer (1.3 million incident cases). The most common causes of cancer deaths and DALYs for men were TBL cancer (1.3 million deaths and 28.4 million DALYs), liver cancer (572 000 deaths and 15.2 million DALYs), and stomach cancer (542 000 deaths and 12.2 million DALYs). For women in 2017, the most common incident cancers were NMSC (3.3 million incident cases), breast cancer (1.9 million incident cases), and colorectal cancer (819 000 incident cases). The leading causes of cancer deaths and DALYs for women were breast cancer (601 000 deaths and 17.4 million DALYs), TBL cancer (596 000 deaths and 12.6 million DALYs), and colorectal cancer (414 000 deaths and 8.3 million DALYs).

Conclusions and Relevance  The national epidemiological profiles of cancer burden in the GBD study show large heterogeneities, which are a reflection of different exposures to risk factors, economic settings, lifestyles, and access to care and screening. The GBD study can be used by policy makers and other stakeholders to develop and improve national and local cancer control in order to achieve the global targets and improve equity in cancer care.