The most common cancers in Africa are cancers of the cervix, breast, liver and prostate as well as Kaposi's sarcoma and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.

The burden of cancer has been on the increase over the past few decades. In 2012 alone, 8.2 million people worldwide were estimated to have died from cancer. More than two thirds of these deaths occurred in low- and middle- income countries.

The rise in the number of cases of cancer is due to ageing populations and the increasing adoption of risk behaviour such as: consumption of unhealthy diets, lack of physical exercise, harmful use of alcohol and tobacco use. In Africa, infections due to human papillomavirus and hepatitis B and C viruses significantly contribute to the burden of the top two cancers, namely cervical and liver cancer respectively.

Many lives can be saved if appropriate investment is made in raising public awareness on the early signs and symptoms of common cancers. In addition people should adopt healthy lifestyles that reduce the risk of cancers.

About a third of all cancer cases could be prevented by avoiding key risk factors. These include tobacco use, harmful use of alcohol, unhealthy diet and physical inactivity. Vaccination and screening programmes are effective interventions to reduce the burden of specific types of cancer. Many cancers have a high chance of cure if detected early and treated adequately