It seems like there is a special day for everything, doesn't it? A simple Internet search on 'special days in February' will give you hundreds, if not thousands of hits (including National Gumdrop Day and International Dog Biscuit Appreciation Day). Although many people may celebrate these special days, there are also those who will just roll their eyes at the myriad of ways to mark occasions and causes. Unfortunately, we can't afford to ignore World Cancer Day, which falls on February 4th. Maybe it was because I was naive, but when I was young, I didn't know anyone touched by cancer. Now it seems like everyone I know has somehow been affected by it.

World Cancer Day was launched in 2005 by the Union for International Cancer Control (UICC) to raise awareness of the global cancer crisis. The UICC is supported by cancer organizations across the world, including the Canadian Cancer Society and Princess Margret Hospital in Toronto.

According to the UICC, cancer kills more people then AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis combined. The World Health Organization estimates that, without intervention, 84 million people will die of cancer between 2005 and 2015. That's more than double Canada's entire population. The Canadian Cancer Society reports that just last year, 173,800 Canadians were diagnosed with cancer and over 76,000 died from the disease.

One of the primary goals of World Cancer Day is to reduce preventable forms of cancer. This year, the official theme of the day is, "Teach children and teenagers to avoid UV exposure by being 'sun smart.'"

As part of the World Cancer Day campaign, the UICC is also promoting the World Cancer Declaration. Visitors to the UICC website are encouraged to sign the declaration, which is working to bring the cancer crisis to the attention of government leaders and policymakers. All names collected will be presented at a United Nations summit in 2011 with the goal of significantly reducing the global cancer burden by 2020. 

Also on the website is a map of World Cancer Day events taking place internationally.

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