Two new reports are calling for a greater global investment in radiotherapy and surgery to prevent millions of premature deaths from cancer.

According to the reports, both published in The Lancet Oncology, up to 60% of all cancer patients will require radiotherapy at some point, while more than 80% of all cancers should be treated with surgery, and yet huge numbers of patients worldwide are missing out.

The first report, Expanding global access to radiotherapy, claims that up to 90% of patients in developing nations have no access to radiotherapy, but also stresses that the problem extends to less poor regions as well, with facilities even in high-income countries such as the UK and Canada deemed “inadequate”.

The cost of scaling up radiotherapy services across the globe between 2015 and 2035 would require an investment of around $96.8 billion, the researchers estimate, but calculate that this would give a net economic benefit of $365·4 billion, as well as saving millions of lives.

The second report, Global cancer surgery: delivering safe, affordable, and timely cancer surgery, estimates that while over 80% people diagnosed with cancer need surgery, less than 25% actually get safe, affordable, or timely surgery.

Moreover, it warns that the failure to train more cancer surgeons and strengthen systems “could result in as much as $6·2 trillion in lost cumulative gross domestic product by 2030”. 

Commenting on the reports, Emlyn Samuel, senior policy manager at Cancer Research UK, said they “rightly identify the need for all countries to invest in these services to make sure their cancer patients can have the best possible treatment”. 

“The recent cancer strategy for England calls for improvements in these areas, particularly to modernise our radiotherapy service to have the best equipment and workforce to provide these treatments. It’s now crucial that the NHS invests in these services so that all patients have the best chance of surviving cancer.”