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World Cancer Day

February 4th is World Cancer Day – a time designated by the United Nations' World Health Organization, in cooperation with the International Union Against Cancer – to raise awareness on this the leading cause of death around the world.

The focus of this year's World Cancer Day is the importance of a healthy, active childhood in cancer prevention. A number of cancers have been associated with obesity – including colon and breast cancers. This is particularly worrisome because of the growing problem of obesity in children.

According to the U.S. National Institutes of Health National Cancer Institute, 1 out of 10 children in the world today are overweight. And overweight children become overweight adults. Worldwide the number of children and adults considered overweight is around one billion, with 300 million clinically obese.

The National Cancer Institute, or NCI, has launched a new program aimed at the growing burden of cancer in Latin America. Through the current development of a series of partnerships with several countries there – Brazil, Uruguay, Chile, Argentina and Mexico – NCI will help establish pilot programs such as clinical trials and technology transfers to help with cancer treatment.

In China the National Cancer Institute has had a long and successful partnership, especially in areas such as epidemiology and natural products discovery for drug development. Many Chinese leaders in major research and clinical cancer treatment across China are alumni of NCI's intramural program.

Given current rates of cancer and the aging of the world's population, cancer is projected to take the lives of 10 million people worldwide by as early as 2020. In addition to the irreplaceable human lives lost, cancer costs in the United States are approaching $215 billion per year. The global costs in the next decade are projected to be staggering.

The United States salutes those around the world who each day wage a brave and desperate battle with this silent killer – researchers, medical personnel, relatives and friends, and most of all, those stricken by cancer. Working with international partners and people of good will, we work for the time when World Cancer Day will be observed no more.