Cancers are among the leading causes of death worldwide. The 2014 World Cancer Report of the World Health Organization (WHO) projects that in the next 20 years cancer cases will surge 75% up from 2008 figures to 25 million per year worldwide*. This will come at an economic cost of US$1trn, with similarly debilitating social costs—straining rich countries and damaging poor ones.
However, the reality is that half of all cancer cases are preventable. Indeed, more than 30% of cancer deaths could be prevented simply by changing or avoiding key risk factors, such as alcohol abuse or an unhealthy diet**.Tobacco causes 20% of all global cancer deaths, and up to 20% of cancer deaths in low or middle income countries are caused by viral infections such as the hepatitis C virus.
Many studies reveal that overall wellness is not just about being physically healthy. It also concerns a person’s individual health mentally, emotionally and spiritually, as well as their role in society and fulfilling expectations in their family, community, place of worship, workplace and environment.***
Prevention is critical to stemming—and ultimately reversing— the rise in cancer cases and it is where the frontline of the battle against cancer must be fought. The theme of this year’s World Cancer Day 2015, held on February 4, was ‘Not Beyond Us’, with a key emphasis on self-awareness and preventative solutions. Experts believe that between one-half to one-third of all cancers can be prevented through daily lifestyle choices****.
The private sector therefore has a primary responsibility to work to educate the public on the importance of taking individual responsibility for winning this fight, reducing cancer deaths and providing greater overall piece-of-mind. This includes the private healthcare insurance industry. There is growing recognition of the importance of promoting preventative care across many medical conditions, with the issue of cancer a key focus. We need to promote pro-active solutions, such as early identification and treatment planning, while empowering people to make healthy choices and increase their understanding of the full impact of cancer on emotional, mental and physical well-being.
Inspiration is not hard to find. Following the introduction of the pink ribbon at the Susan G. Komen’s Race for the Cure event in 1991, the cosmetic industry embraced the pink ribbon and developed the concept of giving pink ribbons to promote the support of breast cancer awareness. As breast cancer awareness grew in the US, more and more organisations started to use the pink ribbon as the symbol of breast cancer. Today the pink ribbon has grown into an international awareness platform.
*, **World Health Organization & the Union for International Cancer Control
***McCann’s Truth about Wellness
Find out more: “5 Ways We Can All Say No To cancer”
The Economist Events will host its 6th annual Health Care in Asia Summit: War on Cancer in Hong Kong on March 20th.