A Nation Newsplex review of health data shows that the rate of death from cancer in Kenya is far outpacing population growth and may double in the next 11 years.
The data also shows that cancer is now the third leading cause of death in Kenya and is threatening to move further up the list of top killers in the coming decade.
Cancer, like diabetes and heart disease, is a non-communicable disease, which means it cannot be spread from person to person.
Non-communicable diseases have become a major health problem in developing countries, and also a matter of global concern. At the post-2015 agenda summit that was held from September 25, in New York, world leaders adopted the reduction of death from non-communicable diseases by one-third by 2030 as a sustainable development target.
According to the Kenya Cancer Registry, four in five cases of cancer are diagnosed in the late stages of the disease.
In Kenya, between 2010 and 2014, therate of people dying from cancer increased from about 31 deaths per 100,000 people to 33 deaths per 100,000 people.
This represents an average annual growth of six per cent for the cancer death rate, which is double the population growth rate of almost three per cent annually. By 2026,at this pace, the rate of death from cancer will almost double to 64 cancer deaths per 100,000 people.
The study, completed by the Institute of Economic Affairs, examined the death rate because it is useful in determining the magnitude of the disease as a public health issue and to estimate the risk of dying from the disease in Kenya.
It found that at least 39 Kenyans died every day from cancer last year, up from 33 deaths in 2010.
The study also looked at absolute cancer numbers and thenumber of deaths caused by cancer as a share of total deaths.
Cancer supplanted HIV and Aids to become Kenya’s third highest cause of death in absolute numbers in 2011.Cancer deaths also increased steadily over the five years from 11,995 in 2010 to 14,175 in 2014, according to data from the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics, representing an increase of 18 per cent within five years.
The death rate for cancer rose as other major causes of death, like malaria pneumonia, HIV and Aids and tuberculosis were falling, partly because the MDGs focused on eliminating most of them.
Three out of the eight MDG goals were health-related and directly focused on reducing child mortality, maternal mortality and deaths from AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria.
According to a Global Fund Results 2015 report released this week, HIV-related deaths in Kenya fell by 80 per cent, while incidence of HIV reduced by almost 60 per cent from 2000 to 2014.
The country also made significant progress in rolling back malaria with deaths reducing by half and incidence reducing by a third from 2000-2014. But Kenya did not fare well with regard to tuberculosis, where deaths increased by almost 20 per cent, while incidence fell by six per cent between 2000 and 2013.
Data from the Kenya Demographic Health Surveys (2003, 2008-09 and 2014) indicate that Kenya also made good progress in reducing child mortality. The death rate in children under five fell by almost half from 98 per 100,000 live births to in 1993 to 52 per 100,000 live births in 2014.
RISE SINCE 2011
But efforts to reduce maternal deaths were not so successful. Between 1990 and 2010, the maternal death rate reduced by 10 per cent from 400 deaths per 100,000 births in 1990 to 360 deaths per 100,000 births in 2010.
During the UN consultation process that came up with the 17 goals and 169 targets that will guide the world’s development spending in the next 15 years, it was argued that progress made through the implementation of MDGs could be lost without targets and action on non-communicable diseases.
Two SDG targets on health and wellbeing focus on NCDs, including target 3(a) on strengthening implementation of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control in all countries, and target 3(b) on supporting research on and development of vaccines and medicines for communicable and non-communicable diseases that primarily affect developing countries.
Malaria, pneumonia, cancer, HIV/Aids, tuberculosis, anaemia, heart disease and meningitis are the top eight killer diseases in Kenya, in that order. Of these, only cancer, heart disease and anaemia are non-communicable.
The number of deaths caused by cancer as a share of total deaths has been increasing over time, except for the year 2011, in which there was a significant drop with cancer deaths accounting for 6.31 per cent of all deaths.
In 2014, one in 14 deaths was caused by cancer. It is the same year when death rate from cancer was lowest, causing 29 deaths per 100,000. The rate rose to almost 31 per 100,000 the following year and reached 33 deaths for every 100,000 Kenyans in 2014.
Health experts say lack of preparedness of the health system to handle the cancer is contributing to the increase.
Most cancer cases in Kenya are not detected early, largely due to myths and misconceptions on the cause of the disease as well as lack of proper cancer diagnosis and treatment.
According to the Kenya Cancer Registry,four in five cases of cancer are diagnosed in the late stages of the disease.