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Major cancer conference

26 March 2009

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A global conference, organised by Cardiff University and Oxford University's Africa-Oxford Cancer Consortium (AfrOx), is to set down a strategy for preventing cervical cancer in Africa and issue an international call for action in combating the disease.

AfrOx and the University will play a leading role in bringing together relevant organizations to put in place the necessary infrastructure, resources, training and health education to make vaccination and screening for cervical cancer a reality across Africa.

The conference delegates will issue a declaration that will call for global support to provide the funds to eradicate this disease in the developing world. The meeting will also produce a strategy for the prevention of cervical cancer in Africa, agree an action plan for its implementation and identify sources of funding for pilot projects.

Cancer kills more people worldwide than HIV/AIDS, malaria and TB combined, and more than half of new cancer cases occur in developing countries. Africa is least able to cope in terms of health infrastructure: 32 of the 53 countries in Africa have no radiotherapy services, nor any prevention, screening, early diagnosis or end-of-life care programmes.

Professor David Kerr of AfrOx and Oxford's Department of Clinical Pharmacology said: "In Africa, cancer is currently a sentence to a painful and distressing death, but we can do something about it. Cervical cancer in particular is largely a preventable disease. The challenges are many and large, but if we can bring together the necessary expertise and resources, we can save millions of lives."

Cervical cancer is the most common cancer affecting women in Africa. The incidence appears to be increasing in the developing world, and falling in developed nations largely due to systematic screening activity.

Professor Alison Fiander, a Gynaecological Cancer surgeon at Cardiff’s School of Medicine said: "The incidence of cervical cancer in Africa often equates with mortality rates in the absence of healthcare facilities to deal with the problem. Often affecting young women, it has devastating effects on families and local communities. We have the means to prevent cervical cancer and there is a moral imperative to apply these where the burden of disease is greatest."

This landmark conference ‘Towards the Prevention of Cervical Cancer in Africa’ takes place on 26-27 March at St Catherine's College, Oxford, and will be attended by health ministers from African nations, African doctors, UK government members and advisors, the World Health Organization, representatives from the pharmaceutical industry, leading international oncologists, and major global cancer organizations and charities.

The sessions, chaired by Professor Kerr and Professor Fiander, will discuss how best to implement appropriate screening and vaccination against cervical cancer in Africa.

In 2008, Global Health formed an integral part of the University’s 125th anniversary celebrations. A ‘Cardiff for Africa’ conference highlighted the challenges facing Africa in the 21st Century, and focused on opportunities for knowledge-transfer whilst suggesting ways in which universities in Britain can contribute their knowledge to the benefit of African society.

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