The World Health Organization (WHO) warned on Tuesday that annual global cancer deaths would jump to 17 million by 2030 from a projected 7.6 million this year if people do not take urgent action to avoid risk factors.

Cancer accounts for one in eight deaths worldwide - more than AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria combined - but many of these deaths can be avoided, the WHO said.

It added that each year, over 12 million people around the world are diagnosed with cancer.

In a message ahead of World Cancer Day on February 4, WHO regional director Shin Young-soo stressed the need to increase people’s awareness of cancer and how to prevent, detect and treat the disease.

“There is a universal fear of cancer,” he said. “But, with the right frame of mind, and by taking appropriate action, some cancers can be averted or cured.” The WHO said more than 30 per cent of all cancers can be prevented through simple measures such as avoiding smoking, eating a healthy diet and taking exercise, limiting alcohol consumption and protection against cancer-causing infections.

“Some cancers can be detected early, treated and cured,” it added.

The WHO said smoking was the “single largest preventable cause of cancer,” while 30 minutes of moderate physical activity each day reduces the risk of breast and colon cancers.

In the Western Pacific Region, the WHO said close to 3.7 million new cancer cases occurred in 2008 - 2.2 million in men and 1.5 million in women. Nearly 2.6 million in the region died from cancer that year, it added.

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