International Journal of Radiation Oncology, Biology, Physics, 01 November 2018, Vol.102(3), pp.490-498
Access to radiation facilities in low- and middle-income countries (LMIC) is far from optimal. Latin America and Africa represent 55% of LMIC, and radiation therapy facilities are available in only 70% and 46% of the countries, respectively. Only 3 countries in both regions meet the International Atomic Energy Agency's recommendation of 250,000 population per megavoltage machine (MVM). In Africa, the mean population served by 1 MVM is 3.56 million, compared with 0.65 million in Latin America. The distribution of radiation facilities in both regions varies according to income group. In Latin America, lower-middle-income countries have a distribution of 1.64 million inhabitants per MVM, as opposed to 0.64 and 0.49 million inhabitants per MVM in upper-middle- and high-income countries, respectively. In Africa, a distribution of 39.8, 2.47, and 0.8 million people per MVM is present in low-, lower-middle-, and upper-middle-income countries, respectively. Significant correlations were clearly demonstrated between population per MVM and gross domestic product (GDP) per capita (r = −0.3, = .014), percentage of current health expenditure from GDP (r = −0.4, = .014), life expectancy (r = −0.5, = .0007), and cancer mortality incidence ratio (r = 0.4, = .003). Stepwise multivariate regression showed that life expectancy was the only statistically significant factor ( = .001). These findings may indicate the detrimental impact of low radiation therapy coverage on life expectancy and cancer mortality incidence ratio in LMIC. It is noteworthy that in Latin America, a significant negative correlation was noted between population per MVM and GDP per capita (r = −0.6, = .0004), as opposed to Africa (r = −0.4, = .075). This indicates that African countries face challenges other than income level in addressing radiation therapy needs. More international efforts are urgently required to address the crisis of unmet radiation therapy needs in LMIC.
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