Cancer cases are quickly skyrocketing in Latin America, experts say.
The researchers spoke at the Latin American Cooperative Oncology Group (LACOG) 2013 conference. They unveiled a benchmark study published in The Lancet Oncology.
According to the study, in Latin America, there are around 163 cases of cancer per 100,000 people. In the U.S., the comparable figure is 300 cases per 100,000, while in Europe it is 264 cases per 100,000.
However, the rate of people dying from the disease is much higher.
Latin America accounts for 13 deaths for every 22 cancer cases. In contrast, the U.S. reports 13 deaths for every 37 cases of cancer, and Europe has approximately 13 deaths for every 30 cases.
The researchers said there were 1.2 million cases of cancer across Latin America. Of these 1.2 million cases, 60 percent were in just two countries: Mexico and Brazil.
The researchers attribute the problem to late diagnosis, poor access to treatment, living more sedentary lifestyles, eating more unhealthily, smoking more and drinking more alcohol. They also noted more than half of the Latin American population has inadequate healthcare.
"We want to galvanize everybody to take action... Cancer is going to be the number one threat and we believe it is very wise to invest more and distribute the budget and resources equitably across all the populations of a country," lead researcher Paul Goss of Harvard Medical School told a press conference.
He added "many people across the region, especially those in poor, rural or indigenous communities, have little or no access to cancer services, a problem exacerbated by low, and highly inequitable, health investment in most Latin American countries."
Governments can bring down cancer rates at relatively low cost, by encouraging people to give up smoking, reduce their alcohol intake and adopt healthy diets as well as exercise, the researchers suggested.