Cancer in the air
The last article that I finished editing for this issue was on cancer insurance and it reminded me of a lazy discussion that I had had with my friends recently on the ‘business’ of healthcare in the country. A friend had shared this piece of statistical insight as to how India spent only 1.3 per cent of its GDP on healthcare, as compared to the global average of 6.5 per cent. This despite India being one of the most vulnerable countries with regard to health epidemics, due to its lack of adequate sanitation facilities, poor awareness levels and negligible preventative healthcare infrastructure.
“Well, there are other priorities as compared to people’s health. We have borders to secure and opportunities have to be created for businesses to scale up,” a friend had said while justifying the government’s investment on healthcare. We exchanged thoughts on the burgeoning businesses of hospitals, medicines, medical insurance, medical-test labs, air purifiers, water purifiers, air masks, vaccinations, health foods, fitness centres, physical trainers, yoga, alternative medicines. And yes, how could we not talk about the rising share values of the businesses of high-on-sugar packed and fast foods. The ever-upward sales of tobacco and beverage companies, as well as their tax contributions make for another story altogether.
Let me tell you how this discussion among the group (comprising social entrepreneurs, editors, writers, businessmen, senior executives at corporate groups) concluded. We all agreed that we could go on discussing, suspecting, and accusing the carcinogens in the system for escalation in cancer cases, but what could we really do to put up a fight?
Well, what we can, and must, do is take small measures to keep ourselves and our loved ones as far from harm’s way as is possible. I have jotted down some of those measures that I intend to practise.
• Smoking is by far the biggest preventable cause of cancer. Nearly a fifth of all cancer cases are caused by smoking. Hence, you may not just quit if you smoke, you must also encourage your family, friends, colleagues and acquaintances to quit. Also, try staying away from secondary smoke – remember that public smoking is an offence and you have the right to object to anybody smoking at a public place.
• The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has proven how outdoor air pollution is one of the biggest causes of increase in cancer cases across the world. The risk of developing lung cancer increases as the level of PM2.5 increases in the air. The only way to protect yourself is to stay away from areas with high PM 2.5 levels. Have children wear masks.
• See what you drink and eat. Packaged foods (including water) with preservatives, high sugar or salt contents, packed in plastic material and stored at varied temperatures can be carcinogenic. Research has proven that raw foods including vegetables, fruits, pulses, food grains and even milk that are not produced ‘organically in natural environments’ are potentially carcinogenic.
• Invisible radiations around you are killing you slowly. Yes, there are two opinions on this and my argument is in favour of what people against radiations are trying to tell us, and not with radiation-emitting lobbies. Radiation from every device that works wirelessly – mobile phones, WiFi modems, Bluetooth devices, radios, and gadgets that emit microwaves and rays, etc. – is carcinogenic. You may not be able to avoid all of these, but you can certainly reduce their use. Let’s keep some hope alive.