Pink and red ribbon

The 20th Anniversary of World Cancer Day

This February 4th marks the 20th anniversary of World Cancer Day, a day that aims to spark action internationally to reduce the number of cancer deaths and to achieve equal access to cancer care for all.

This day is an initiative from the Union for International Cancer Control (UICC), the largest and oldest international cancer organisation. The UICC is dedicated to taking the lead in building and promoting advocacy initiatives that unite the cancer community to reduce the global cancer burden, promote greater equity, and integrate cancer control into the world health and development agenda.

History of World Cancer Day

Cancer is one of the world’s leading killers, with the disease now claiming almost 9.6 million lives each year. Left unchecked, this number is expected to reach 13.2 million by the year 2030.

Born in the year 2000 at the World Summit Against Cancer for the New Millennium in Paris, World Cancer Day aims to save millions of preventable deaths each year by raising awareness about cancer, and pressing governments and individuals across the world to take action against the disease.

The Paris charter coined at this event has made a commitment to promoting research, preventing cancer, improving patient services, raising awareness and mobilising the global community to take action.


This year marks the midway point for the three-year “I am and I will” campaign. This theme promotes a call to action, urging for a personal commitment from individuals to fight against cancer and acknowledges that whatever your actions – big or small – can make lasting positive change.

The UICC hopes to empower individuals to take action against cancer, whether it be through creating a social media post to raise awareness, partitioning a local council to light up a monument or hosting an event to raise funds and awareness.

In 2019 alone, more than 947 World Cancer Day actions took place in 127 countries, gathering communities together to raise awareness for action against cancer. At least 62 government leaders responded with strengthened support and commitment, while supporters made their own voices heard with over 700,000 social media posts, seeing the campaign trend on Twitter worldwide. While the global story on early detection, screening and diagnosis inspired over 15,000 press articles in 154 countries.

How Australian healthcare is talking cancer

Cancer is a major cause of illness in Australia, with currently more than one million people living with- or who have lived with – cancer. Despite this however, increased awareness raised by initiatives such as World Cancer Day have increased funding for cancer research and treatment, seeing the estimated cancer mortality rate in Australia reach a new low.

The number of medical professionals working in the field of oncology has increased over the years alongside this growth in funding, and can include roles such as:

  • Medical Oncologists
  • Surgical Oncologists
  • Paediatric Oncologist
  • Pathologists
  • Oncology Nurses
  • Oncology Social Workers

Australia also has world class cancer treatment facilities, such as the Peter Maccallum Health Centre and Epworth Radiation Oncology in Victoria and Oceania Oncology in Queensland. These, alongside many others stay on the cutting-edge of treatment options by offering clinical trials and international resources.

If you would like to take action this World Cancer Day, click here to find out more.