With more than 112,000 people of working age diagnosed with cancer in the UK every year and 700,000 employees thought to be caring for someone with cancer according to cancer charity Macmillan, awareness-raising initiatives such as World Cancer Day has never been more important.
The global event which takes place on the 4th February, is a key international awareness day on the global health calendar and aims to raise the profile of cancer in the media and beyond.
It was first established by the Paris Charter at the World Summit Against Cancer for the New Millennium in February 2000 in an effort to promote and fund new research into the disease both in terms of potential cure and disease prevention.
According to Rachel Western, principal at Aon Employee Benefits, World Cancer Awareness Day plays a crucial role in the battle against cancer - education can become an individual’s ‘best line of defence’ against the disease. “People can’t react to what they don’t know, so awareness days are essential in raising the profile of diseases like cancer,” she said. “Becoming empowered to self-diagnose may just save an individuals’ life.”
The 2018 World Cancer Day in particular, is the last year of a three-year campaign - We can. I can - which targets individuals, groups and communities and looks at how together and individually, we can help reduce the cancer burden across the globe.
Speaking last year, Dr Cary Adams, Chief Executive Officer at the Union for International Cancer Control (UICC) said: “This World Cancer Day we want to inspire individuals to play an active role in the fight against cancer, by being physically active. Around a third of all cancers are preventable through lifestyle changes, such as increasing physical activity and leading a less sedentary lifestyle. A large number of people also find exercise to be of great benefit to their wellbeing either during or after treatment. The ‘We can. I can.’ campaign is in its second year and we hope to build on the success of last year and spread the message further than ever.”
Last month, Barts Cancer Institute urged law makers to extend screening for women whether or not they had a family history of cancer. Their research found that ‘population testing’ among the female demographic helped identify a faulty gene which put women at higher risk of breast and ovarian cancer. According to their results, if every woman over 30 was tested for the gene, it could prevent around 17,000 fewer ovarian cancers and 64,000 fewer breast cancers in the UK.
Meanwhile, data from Routes to Diagnosis published by the National Cancer Registration and Analysis Service found that late diagnosis rates (urgent referrals including A&E admissions) were falling although more improvement was needed.
Western added: “Unfortunately, cancer is a part of our lives, but early detection can increase survival rates or even help prevent cancers developing. Educating employees to understand key risk areas, what signs to look out for and how lifestyle choices can impact their risk as part of an employer’s health strategy can result in fewer cancer sufferers, fewer claimants and fewer workplace absences. As well as protecting the business, investing in employee health can help support a caring culture, making organisations an employer of choice.”
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