This is up from estimated 14.1 million new cancer cases and 8.2 million deaths reported in the agency's last assessment just six years ago.
The toll is rising as populations expand and grow older, and people in developing nations adopt unhealthy, high-risk lifestyles traditionally associated with richer economies.
Yet the overall number of new cases is racing ahead of efforts to contain the disease.
One in five men and one in six women will develop cancer during their lifetime, the study said, and the World Health Organization expects the disease to be the leading cause of death in the 21st century.
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