Today (4 February) marks World Cancer Day 2021, a day designed to prevent cancer, promote research, improve patient services, raise awareness, and “mobilise the global community to make progress against cancer”.
The day was set up by the Union for International Cancer Control (UICC) – the largest and oldest international cancer organisation – and was first marked in 2000.
Here is everything you need to know about it.
What is this year’s theme?
The theme for 2021’s World Cancer Day is: “I Am And I Will”.
The UICC says this year's event marks the final year of a three year campaign, which offers “a chance to create long-lasting impact by increasing public-facing exposure and engagement, more opportunities to build global awareness and impact-driven action.”
They describe 2021 as “the ultimate year of the ‘I Am and I Will’ campaign”, and say “more than ever, our actions are also being felt across borders and oceans.
"This year is a reminder of the enduring power of cooperation and collective action. When we choose to come together, we can achieve what we all wish for: a healthier, brighter world without cancer.”
World Cancer Day 2021 comes as people are being urged to seek help for potential symptoms of cancer after it emerged that fewer are coming forward during the pandemic.
The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said that the latest NHS data for England shows fewer people are being referred for help for lung cancer and urological cancers because they are not coming forward for help.
As a result, the Health Secretary and NHS clinical director for cancer are calling on the public to speak to their GP if they are worried about symptoms.
They stressed that cancer diagnosed at an earlier stage is more likely to be successfully treated, and the NHS has robust measures in place to protect cancer patients, and those being screened for cancer, from Covid-19.
“This World Cancer Day we should come together to commit that diagnosing and treating cancer is a top priority,” said Health Secretary Matt Hancock. “If you notice any unusual symptoms which last more than a few weeks, however mild you think they might be, please come forward and discuss it with your GP.
“The sooner you speak to your GP, the sooner a diagnosis can be made, the sooner treatment can start, and the more lives we can save.”
For more information on World Cancer Day 2021, head to the UICC’s website
How can I take part?
To support World Cancer Day this year, you can make a donation to a number of registered cancer charities, including Cancer Research UK.
Cancer Research say their vital work has been “slowed down” by Covid-19, and are urging supporters to “donate now to get us back on track”.
You can donate to the charity by heading to their website, and can even choose which area of cancer research your donation goes to. They’re also offering some fun fundraising ideas for this year, including virtual quiz or games nights, home exercise challenges or head shaves.
You can also display your Cancer Research UK Unity band with pride this World Cancer Day.
The Unity Band is the charity’s symbol for support for World Cancer Day 2021, representing unity and showing support for those affected by cancer. You can get your Unity Band online today.
Why is World Cancer Day important?
World Cancer Day 2021 comes as a study carried out by the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine found the UK is at the bottom of a list of countries ranked by survival rates of some of the deadliest cancers.
The UK came 25th, 26th and 27th out of 29 countries for its five-year survival rates of pancreatic, stomach and lung cancer respectively, research – first published in 2018 but shared to mark World Cancer Day – shows.
For cancers diagnosed between 2010 and 2014, the UK had an average five-year survival rate of just 15.97 per cent compared to South Korea, which had a rate of 32.78 per cent.
It ranked 14th for oesophagus cancer, 21st for liver cancer, and 22nd for brain cancer. Less survivable cancers make up around half of all common cancer deaths in the UK.
These numbers are likely to be impacted further by the pandemic, and people are being urged to seek help for potential symptoms of cancer after it emerged that fewer are coming forward.