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VIENNA, June 26 (AFP) - The number of people suffering from cancer in developing countries is set to double by 2015, affecting a total of about 10 million people, according to a report by the UN's nuclear watchdog released Thursday.
The study by the the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) showed that developing countries have 85 percent of the world's population but only one third of available radiotherapy equipment to tackle cancer, in all some 2,200 machines.
Rich countries, by contrast, can call on about 4,500 of the machines, which destroy cancerous cells, the report said.
Cancer specialist Bhadrasain Vikram, who led the team that drew up the report, said the rise in the number of cases was due to the fact that the majority of cancer sufferers in developing countries do not have access to radiotherapy treatment because it costs too much.
Ethiopia, said the report, had just one radiotherapy machine -- donated by the IAEA -- to offer treatment to a population of 60 million inhabitants.
According to Vikram, a cancer specialist based at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York, a huge cash injection was needed over the next ten years to fight the disease in less well-off countries.
"We estimate that at least 2.5 billion dollars (2.15 billion euros) is needed to provide adequate treatment facilities, as well to purchase machines and to train doctors. It takes four years to train the people", he said.
The reasons for the spread of cancer in the developing world were that people were living longer, their lifestyles were changing and in some cases they lived in unhygenic conditions, he said.
The most frequently diagnosed forms of cancer were cancer of the uterus, breast cancer and prostate cancer.
"The crisis is to some degree preventable, depending on how we start to manage it now" said Vikram, adding, however, that there was no time to lose because of the long period required to train doctors in radiotherapy techniques.
Vikram also said a form of "brain drain" was operating to the detriment of developing countries, and he gave the example of three of Sri Lanka's six radiologists who travelled to Australia for training.
They ended up staying, as they were offered jobs on higher salaries than they would have received in Sri Lanka.
According to the UN World Health Organisation six million people died of cancer in 2000, with predictions suggesting that this figure could reach 10 million by 2020.
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