Cancer Organizations Across Latin America Vow To Intensify Action Against Expected “Tsunami” Of New Cancer Deaths

For the first time ever, leading cancer organizations across Latin America have signed onto a joint declaration pledging to intensify action against millions of avoidable cancer deaths on the continent.

The Bogota Statement on Leading BOLD Cancer Prevention into the Future was signed by leaders of cancer organizations and foundations from 8 Latin American countries, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, El Salvador, Mexico, and Peru at a meeting in Bogota, Colombia, which ended Wednesday. The December 3-4 meeting was hosted by Liga Colombiana Contra el Cáncer and the US-based American Cancer Society, which pledged to support the Latin America initiative.

“Meeting in Bogotá provided us with a great opportunity to discuss common challenges in addressing cancer risk factors and inequities that mean marginalized people suffer most,” said Sally Cowal, senior vice president of Global Cancer Control, American Cancer Society.

“We agreed we have a significant opportunity to share our knowledge and experiences, and provide a strong voice for the growing evidence base in Latin America…We acknowledge we are stronger together and this meeting has provided new impetus for progressing work to prevent future cancer deaths.”

Cancer is already the second-leading cause of death in Latin America. But if current trends continue, there could be a 91 percent increase in cancer incidence across the region between 2012 and 2035, to 1.8 million new cancer cases every year, and cancer deaths will double to around 1 million deaths annually, according to a 2018 study published in the International Journal of Cancer. 

Colombia’s Minister of Health and Social Protection, Dr. Juan Pablo Uribe Restrepo, and Vice Minister of Health and Social Protection, Dr. Iván Darío González, both expressed their support for the initiative at the meeting of some 20 leaders of cancer foundations, advocacy groups, and research centers from around the continent.

Colombia’s Minister of Health and Social Protection, Dr. Juan Pablo Uribe Restrepo, speaking at the meeting.

“We are working to improve the health of the population…We are strongly committed to reducing smoking and are working to reduce the number of tobacco users, especially among youth and students…Together with institutions like the Liga Colombiana Contra el Cáncer, we continue to fight against human papillomavirus,” said Minister Restrepo, noting that only 32% of eligible Colombians have so far received the vaccine that helps prevent cervical cancer. “Our goal is to reach 100 percent coverage,” he said.

Cancer experts present at the conference called the projections for cancer’s rising disease and death toll a predicted “tsunami” that constitutes a “public health emergency which is exacerbating social, economic and health inequities.”

To combat the growing threat of cancer, Cowal said that the Bogota Statement focuses on adopting a set of “best buys for cancer prevention.”

Dr. Carlos Castro, medical and scientific director at the Liga Colombiana Contra el Cáncer, further clarified, “We must join forces to increase tobacco taxes as the most effective way to reduce tobacco consumption, regulate e-cigarettes, and increase vaccination against human papillomavirus, which causes cervical cancer. Those are our principal commitments against cancer included in the Bogotá Declaration.”

It’s estimated that more than 30 percent of all cancer deaths are preventable. Tobacco is associated with more than 14 different cancers and causes more than 20 percent of cancer deaths, globally. Obesity and unhealthy diet is associated with 14 different cancers and alcohol with seven different cancers. Other risk factors associated with the most prevalent cancers across the region include inconsistency of vaccination programs and treatment of cervical, stomach and liver cancer infections.

In signing the declaration, the cancer leaders, agreed to intensify their activities across a number of key, shared priorities, including the following:

  1. Support measures to increase tobacco taxes as the main tool to reduce tobacco consumption and prevent initiation in young people.
  2. Urge countries that have not yet signed or ratified the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control to be a party to this global treaty, the first international public health treaty which provides the guidelines for tobacco control worldwide
  3. Monitor and report corporate interference (especially from the tobacco, alcohol and ultra-processed foods industries) in public policy decision-making.
  4. Advocate for the regulation of electronic nicotine delivery systems (SEAN) and new devices.
  5. Actively participate in the elimination of cervical cancer through national human papillomavirus vaccination programs and strengthened early detection programs that use DNA-HPV testing.
  6. Support research and the eradication of Helicobacter Pylori infection to prevent gastric cancer.
  7. Promote the development of cancer prevention and early detection activities related to the main cancers in the region.
  8. Contribute to the dissemination of academic research that helps build cancer prevention policies.
  9. Act in conjunction with existing networks in the region to document and share successful experiences, lessons learned and communication strategies to achieve strong and sustainable progress.

Underlying all the commitments made in the Bogota Declaration was the theme of shared learning. Gloria Inés Forero, president of the Liga Colombiana Contra el Cáncer, said that collaboration between the organizations, based on “experiences and lessons learned,” is the key to “countering the imminent advance of cancer in the region.”

Signatories to the Bogota Statement.
(Left-right back) Sebastian Jimenez, CEPREME, Ecuador; Luiz Augusto Maltoni Jr., presidente, Fundação do Câncer, Brasil; Dr. Jorge Jiménez de la Jara, presidente, Fundación Foro Nacional de Cáncer, Chile; Dr. Bill Cance, chief medical & scientific officer, American Cancer Society, USA; Diego Paonesa, chief executive officer, Liga Argentina de Lucha Contra el Cáncer, Argentina; Adolfo Dammert Ludowieg, presidente, La Liga contra el Cancer, Peru; Dr. Carlos José Castro, medical and scientific director, Liga Colombiana Contra el Cáncer
(left-right front) Blanca Llorente, directora, Fundación Anáas, Colombia; Dr. Lisseth Ruíz de Campos, presidente, ASAPRECAN, El Salvador; Sally Cowal, senior vice president, Global Cancer Control, American Cancer Society, USA; Gloría Inés Forero de Ruíz, presidenta, Liga Colombiana Contra el Cáncer, Colombia; Diana Rivera, directora, Fundación Ellen Riegner de Casas, Colombia; Dr. Guadalupe Ponciano, Asociación Mexicana de Lucha contra el Cáncer, Mexico