On this page you can find out about differences in age-standardised rates of cancer between more and less developed countries.

The Human Development Index (HDI) measures average achievement in three key dimensions of human development: a long and healthy life, knowledge and a decent standard of living.

The health dimension is assessed by life expectancy at birth, the education dimension is measured by mean of years of schooling for adults aged 25 years and more and expected years of schooling for children of school entering age. The standard of living dimension is measured by gross national income per capita. The scores for the three indices are then aggregated into a composite index. The HDI simplifies and captures only part of what human development entails. It does not reflect on inequalities, poverty, human security, empowerment, etc. More information on the HDI can be found here (pdf). 

Overall, the age-standardised cancer rate (including non-melanoma skin cancer) is higher in more developed countries. There were 296 cases of cancer diagnosed per 100,000 in more developed regions, compared with 115 in less developed regions in 2018.

Age-standardised rates are used in the tables. This is a summary measure of the rate of disease that a population would have if it had a standard age structure. Standardisation is necessary when comparing populations that differ with respect to age because age has a powerful influence on the risk of dying from cancer.

Both sexes

  • The rate for all cancers (including non-melanoma skin cancer) was 2.5 times higher in countries with a very high Human Development Index (HDI) compared with countries with a low HDI.
  • The rates of most cancers are higher in countries with a very high HDI.
Age-standardised rate per 100,000
Cancer World Very high HDI countries Low HDI countries
Breast 46.3 75.2 32.8
Prostate 29.3 61.1 26.1
Lung 22.5 30.0 3.0
Cervix uteri 13.1 9.4 29.8
Colon 11.5 18.9 3.5
Stomach 11.1 10.4 4.4
Non-melanoma skin 10.1 24.7 2.6
Liver 9.3 6.9 6.0
Corpus uteri 8.4 15.7 3.1
Rectum 7.7 10.8 2.8
Thyroid 6.7 11.7 1.6
Ovary 6.6 8.6 4.6
Oesophagus 6.3 3.7 3.9
Bladder 5.7 10.5 2.4
Non-Hodgkin lymphoma 5.7 9.3 4.2
Leukaemia 5.2 7.7 2.9
Pancreas 4.8 7.7 1.8
Kidney 4.5 9.4 1.1
Lip, oral cavity 4.0 4.3 1.9
Brain, central nervous system 3.5 5.0 1.3
Melanoma of skin 3.1 9.9 0.9
Gallbladder 2.3 2.5 0.5
Larynx 2.0 2.3 1.1
Testis 1.7 5.3 0.3
Multiple myeloma 1.7 3.0 0.8
All cancers 197.9 296.2 114.7

Men

  • The rate for all cancers (including non-melanoma skin cancer) was three times higher in more developed than less developed countries.
  • The rates of most cancers are higher in countries with a very high HDI.
Age-standardised rate per 100,000
Cancer World Very high HDI countries Low HDI countries
Lung 31.5 40.4 3.9
Prostate 29.3 61.1 26.1
Stomach 15.7 15.0 5.1
Liver 13.9 10.6 7.9
Non-melanoma skin 13.9 35.6 2.7
Colon 13.1 22.1 3.7
Rectum 10.0 14.4 3.0
Bladder 9.6 18.1 3.1
Oesophagus 9.3 6.3 4.5
Non-Hodgkin lymphoma 6.7 11.2 5.0
Leukaemia 6.1 9.3 3.1
Kidney 6.0 12.8 1.2
Lip, oral cavity 5.8 6.4 2.2
Pancreas 5.5 9.1 1.9
Brain, central nervous system 3.9 5.8 1.4
Larynx 3.6 4.2 1.9
Melanoma of skin 3.5 10.7 0.8
Thyroid 3.1 5.2 0.9
Nasopharynx 2.2 0.8 1.1
Gallbladder 2.2 2.7 0.4
Multiple myeloma 2.1 3.7 0.9
Oropharynx 1.8 3.2 0.5
Testis 1.7 5.3 0.3
Hypopharynx 1.6 1.9 0.3
Hodgkin lymphoma 1.1 2.3 0.9
All cancers 218.6 335.2 101.6

Women

  • The rate for all cancers (including non-melanoma skin cancer) in more developed countries is double that of less developed countries.
  • The rates of most cancers are higher in countries with a very high HDI.
  • The rates of cervical, liver and oesophageal cancer are higher in countries with a low HDI than in countries with a very high HDI.
Age-standardised rate per 100,000
Cancer World Very high HDI countries Low HDI countries
Breast 46.3 75.2 32.8
Lung 14.6 21.4 2.2
Cervix uteri 13.1 9.4 29.8
Thyroid 10.2 18.2 2.2
Colon 10.1 16.2 3.4
Corpus uteri 8.4 15.7 3.1
Stomach 7.0 6.6 3.7
Non-melanoma skin 7.0 16.3 2.5
Ovary 6.6 8.6 4.6
Rectum 5.6 7.6 2.7
Liver 4.9 3.5 4.3
Non-Hodgkin lymphoma 4.7 7.7 3.4
Leukaemia 4.3 6.3 2.7
Pancreas 4.0 6.5 1.6
Oesophagus 3.5 1.3 3.4
Kidney 3.1 6.3 1.1
Brain, central nervous system 3.1 4.3 1.2
Melanoma of skin 2.9 9.6 0.9
Gallbladder 2.4 2.2 0.7
Bladder 2.4 4.2 1.8
Lip, oral cavity 2.3 2.3 1.7
Multiple myeloma 1.4 2.4 0.8
Vulva 0.9 1.5 0.9
Nasopharynx 0.8 0.3 0.5
Hodgkin lymphoma 0.8 1.8 0.6
All cancers 182.6 269.2 128.4