Each year on 4 February, WHO and International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) supports Union for International Cancer Control (UICC) to promote ways to ease the global burden of cancer. This year, WHO has featured an article detailing the comprehensive cancer prevention plan that was implimented in Cuba, following their reccomendations, that ensures universal access to all levels of health service – from cancer prevention, through diagnosis and treatment to palliative care. The plan is underpinned by a strong primary health care system that enables doctors to see their patients regularly and catch health problems at an early stage. Suspected cancer patients are referred to specialized centres for diagnosis and appropriate treatment.

Cancer is the second leading cause of death in Cuba, after cardiovascular diseases. It is estimated that every year about 21 000 people die of cancer on the island and more than 31 000 cancer cases are newly diagnosed.

“Cancer is one of the major killers in Cuba. This is partly because people live longer but also because many have adopted unhealthy lifestyles. Too many people use alcohol harmfully, eat unhealthily and use tobacco,” says Dr José Luis Di Fabio, the head of the WHO Country Office in Cuba. “Among men, prostate and lung cancers are the most common types of cancer, and among women breast and cervical cancer are at the top of the list.”

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Acknowledgements: Informaion adpted from WHO website