At the start of the millennium, 4 February was declared World Cancer Day. It began with six cancer experts who convened in Paris in 1999. With the year 2000 imminent, the group was determined that the global challenge of cancer would not be forgotten in the new century.
Together, the six leaders – Drs David Kayat, Peter Harper, James F. Holland, Gabriel N. Horobagyi, Lawrence H. Einhorn and Sandra Swain – drafted a Charter that outlined a vision for addressing the impact of cancer on “human life, human suffering and on the productivity of nations”.
The Charter highlights the need for access to quality care, funding for cancer research, greater understanding and above all respect and dignity for all individuals living with the disease.
The final article set out the idea for an international awareness day:
“Recognising the declaration by all appropriate institutions that February 4 shall be marked as ‘World Cancer Day’ so that each year, the Charter of Paris will be in the hearts and minds of people around the world.”
This document became known as the Charter of Paris Against Cancer.
On the 4 February 2000, the Charter was signed by then President of France, Jacques Chirac and then General Director of UNESCO, Kōichirō Matsuura.
The Charter has been adopted by international cancer organisations around the world. Under the guardianship of the Union for International Cancer Control since 2006, World Cancer Day has grown into a positive movement for everyone, everywhere to unite under one voice, building an alliance against “fear, ignorance and complacency.”
Since the creation of World Cancer Day, we have witnessed incredible progress in many areas, from increased political will, technological advancements, research breakthroughs, and greater public understanding of the disease. However, in 2019 the World Health Organization included Non-communicable Diseases (NCDs), including cancer, as one of top ten threats to public health. There is still much more to be done.
2020 marks the 20th anniversary of World Cancer Day. It will be a year to ignite action to accelerate the reduction of unnecessary cancer deaths and to achieve equal access to cancer care for all.
Join us on 4 February, 2020.