The current economic crisis threatens to affect cancer incidence in a number of areas, says a paper by Doctor José M. Martin-Moreno from the University of Valencia, Spain, and colleagues. The prospects for disease caused by occupational exposure to carcinogens are also likely to worsen, they say. "Both private companies and governments tend to take shortcuts in occupational safety controls during periods of economic hardship," said Martin-Moreno "and this is especially true for small companies and in developing countries."
Cancer prevention, like cancer itself, encompasses a large number of diverse factors including lifestyle choices, genetics, environment, occupation, infections and access to preventive healthcare, the researchers say. Cancer control efforts, therefore, can overlap with everything from the control of hypertension to the reduction of greenhouse gases. Unless forceful action is undertaken now, the cancer burden will only continue to grow, leading to enormous human cost and placing an unsustainable burden on health systems.
However, prevention efforts can also be more effective in times of crisis. As people give up or reduce unhealthy lifestyle habits in order to reduce costs, they may be particularly receptive to new and healthier choices, say the researchers. "Governments could also play their part by taking the opportunity to levy higher taxes on tobacco, alcohol and other unhealthy goods like trans fats or processed sugar and channelling the revenue thus derived towards job-creating disease prevention and social welfare programmes," said Martin-Moreno.
The issue places special emphasis on the need to address cancer prevention using a holistic and global approach, focusing on the 'big four' risk factors of smoking, obesity, alcohol and physical inactivity. This represents a fundamental shift away from the reductive approach of earlier research, which meant looking narrowly, often in isolation, at multiple micro-components of diet and lifestyle, say the editors.
Professor Michael Baumann, from the University Hospital and Medical Faculty, Dresden, Germany, and ECCO President, said: "Cancer prevention may not be foremost in the policy-makers' minds at present, but right now it is more relevant than it has ever been before. The recession confronts them with a clear choice – either to introduce short-term cost-containment strategies, which will simply increase long-term costs, or to use the financial crisis as an opportunity to strengthen evidence-based prevention policies. We hope that the evidence so amply provided in this special issue of the EJC will help make them decide to follow the right road and take a major step towards reducing the incidence of cancer in Europe over the years to come."
MEDICA.de; Source: ECCO-the European CanCer Organisation