Background: Country comparisons that consider the effect of fatal and non-fatal disease outcomes are needed for health-care planning. We calculated disability-adjusted life-years (DALYs) to estimate the global burden of cancer in 2008.
Methods: We used population-based data, mostly from cancer registries, for incidence, mortality, life expectancy, disease duration, and age at onset and death, alongside proportions of patients who were treated and living with sequelae or regarded as cured, to calculate years of life lost (YLLs) and years lived with disability (YLDs). We used YLLs and YLDs to derive DALYs for 27 sites of cancers in 184 countries in 12 world regions. Estimates were grouped into four categories based on a country's human development index (HDI). We applied zero discounting and uniform age weighting, and age-standardised rates to enable cross-country and regional comparisons.
Findings: Worldwide, an estimated 169·3 million years of healthy life were lost because of cancer in 2008. Colorectal, lung, breast, and prostate cancers were the main contributors to total DALYs in most world regions and caused 18-50% of the total cancer burden. We estimated an additional burden of 25% from infection-related cancers (liver, stomach, and cervical) in sub-Saharan Africa, and 27% in eastern Asia. We noted substantial global differences in the cancer profile of DALYs by country and region; however, YLLs were the most important component of DALYs in all countries and for all cancers, and contributed to more than 90% of the total burden. Nonetheless, low-resource settings had consistently higher YLLs (as a proportion of total DALYs) than did high-resource settings.
Interpretation: Age-adjusted DALYs lost from cancer are substantial, irrespective of world region. The consistently larger proportions of YLLs in low HDI than in high HDI countries indicate substantial inequalities in prognosis after diagnosis, related to degree of human development. Therefore, radical improvement in cancer care is needed in low-resource countries.
Funding: Dutch Scientific Society, Erasmus University Rotterdam, and International Agency for research on Cancer.
Copyright © 2012 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.