World Cancer Congress 2018, Kuala Lumpur, October 2018

A blog by Lucy Elliss-Brookes, Head of Cancer Analysis

The Union for International Cancer Control (UICC) is a non-governmental organisation that represents the world’s major cancer societies, ministries of health and patient groups.  It holds a World Cancer Congress every two years and I was delighted to represent PHE at the 2018 event in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, joining a host of policy makers, researchers and experts in cancer prevention and control.  Almost 3,000 delegates from 120 countries attended the Congress which was packed with presentations, debates, workshops and e-posters.

The conference was divided into five thematic tracks which covered a broad spectrum of topics, ranging from motivating prevention and healthy behaviours, to raising funds and attracting resources; there really was something for everyone.

The importance of cancer registration was a strong theme throughout the Congress, with Chris Wild (International Agency for Research on Cancer) stating in his talk on the Global Cancer Burden that registration is a foundation to cancer control: understanding causation, planning care, evaluating prevention and describing occurrence.

I gave short presentations on two NCRAS studies that were selected to be of interest to the broad audience: our report on cancer during pregnancy (led by Busani Ndlela and published in June) and our paper on risk of suicide after cancer diagnosis (led by Katherine Henson and due to be published in November), both of which were well received by delegates.

Our partnership work was represented at the event, with delegates from Cancer Research UK presenting Clare Pearson’s work on diagnostic pathway lengths, and Macmillan Cancer Support chairing a popular session that included their new work on patients with ‘Treatable but not Curable’ cancer that we are supporting.   Michael Chapman presented about the collaborative work on the Review of Informed Choice for Cancer Registration.  We were also authors on a UK study looking at the proportion of cancers in the UK that could be prevented.

There were a number of particularly interesting plenary sessions that I would highlight:

  • The economics of prevention – how to make the case for investing in preventing cancers in the first place – of relevance to PHE in terms of our broader prevent strategies, but cancer and economics in general is an area that I think we could use our data to understand better
  • An international drive to eradicate cervical cancer – we have the luxury of a funded national screening programme that other countries envy, yet our uptake rates our declining
  • Addressing the commercial determinants of cancer – how industry interferes in and undermines public health policies and public policymaking – topical in relation to the recent debate about PHE partnering with Drinkaware for our alcohol-free days campaign

It was very clear that countries worldwide are in vastly different states of sophistication in terms of cancer registries and their cancer data; many were grappling with how to collect basic cancer incidence data, let alone recording tumour stage – it struck me that there is much more that we could and should do to share our registration knowledge and experience with others across the globe.

All in all the World Cancer Congress 2018 was fascinating and informative, particularly from the wider public health perspective, and it provided an insight into the different challenges faced by our counterparts across the globe.  The next event will be held in Oman in October 2020.