In early December 2019, cancer leaders from nine countries in the Americas met in Bogotá, Colombia to strategize about how they could deepen their collaborative efforts to prevent cancer.

Featured Picture: From left to right, Dr. Carlos José Castro, Medical Director, Liga Colombiana Contra el Cancér; Gloría Inés Forero de Ruíz, President, Liga Colombiana Contra el Cancér; Juan Pablo Uribe Restrepo, Colombia’s Minister of Health and Social Protection; Sally Cowal, Senior Vice President, Global Cancer Control; and Bill Cance, Chief Medical and Scientific Officer, American Cancer Society.

Cancer is the second leading cause of death in Latin America. An estimated 1.8 million new cases of cancer and 1 million deaths a year are expected in Latin America by 2035. Between 2012 and 2035, there will have been a 91% increase in cancer incidence and a doubling in mortality.

The meeting was the first of its kind and was hosted by the American Cancer Society and la Liga Colombiana Contra el Cáncer. It also included leaders from organizations in Argentina (Liga Argentina de Lucha Contra el Cáncer), Brazil (Fundação do Cãncer), Chile (Fundación Foro Nacional de Cáncer), Colombia (Fundación Anáas and Fundación Ellen Riegner de Casas), Ecuador (Fundación CEPREME), El Salvador (Asociación Salvadoreña para la Prevención del Cáncer), México (Asociación Mexicana de Lucha Contra el Cáncer A.C.), and Perú La Liga Peruana de Lucha Contra el Cancér (Peru).

Colombia’s Minister of Health and Social Protection, Juan Pablo Uribe Restrepo, spoke at the meeting and stressed the need to tackle both the cancer burden and threat.

Participants shared best practices for preventing cancer, discussed shared challenges, and exchanged ideas on how they could collaborate to reduce tobacco use, increase HPV vaccination rates, promote healthy lifestyles, and achieve health equity.

Because many cancers are connected to modifiable risk factors, meeting participants agreed urgent attention needed to be given to raising the priority of prevention policies and programs. Tobacco control topped their list. The leaders particularly discussed supporting increased excise taxes on tobacco products and the role that cancer organizations could play in promoting such a strategy.

The meeting culminated with the signing of a declaration that aims to ensure a coordinated commitment among cancer organizations, government entities, other civil society organizations, media, academia, scientific societies, and the private health sector to effectively advocate for and implement public policies that prevent cancer.

Based on scientific evidence and high public health impact, the organizations identified these immediate priorities:

  1. Support measures to increase tobacco taxes as the main tool to reduce tobacco consumption and prevent initiation in young people.
  2. Urge countries that have not yet signed or ratified the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control to be a party to this global treaty, the first international public health treaty which provides guidelines for tobacco control worldwide.
  3. Monitor and report corporate interference (especially from the tobacco, alcohol, and ultra-processed foods industries) in public policy decision-making.
  4. Advocate for the regulation of electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS) and new devices.
  5. Actively participate in the elimination of cervical cancer through national human papillomavirus vaccination programs and strengthened early detection programs to use DNA-HPV testing.
  6. Support research and eradication of Helicobacter Pylori infection to prevent gastric cancer.
  7. Promote the development of cancer prevention and early detection activities related to the main cancers in the region.
  8. Contribute to the dissemination of academic research that helps build cancer prevention policies.
  9. Act in conjunction with existing networks in the region to document and share successful experiences, lessons learned, and effective communication strategies to achieve strong and sustainable progress.