Can­cer takes a toll on both health and econ­omy

To­bacco con­trol, vac­ci­na­tions and screen­ing can help com­bat the dis­ease

Hindustan Times (Gurgaon) - - Comment -

The BRICS group­ing of coun­tries — Brazil, Rus­sia, India, China and South Africa — are los­ing bil­lions of dol­lars in pro­duc­tiv­ity owing to can­cer, says a re­search pa­per pub­lished in the Jour­nal of Can­cer Epi­demi­ol­ogy. India recorded a to­tal pro­duc­tiv­ity loss of $6.7 bil­lion in 2012 be­cause of can­cer, rep­re­sent­ing 0.36% of our GDP. While the cost per death of pro­duc­tiv­ity lost in India was less than $20,000, the low­est among BRICS coun­tries, the high­est pro­duc­tiv­ity losses – $0.74 bil­lion – be­cause of the lip and oral can­cers are a cause for alarm. Tak­ing the loss of pro­duc­tiv­ity owing to pre­ma­ture death into con­sid­er­a­tion can pro­vide pol­i­cy­mak­ers ad­di­tional per­spec­tive when they chart out strate­gies for pre­ven­tion and con­trol of the dis­ease.

Doc­tors say close to 60% of can­cers in India can be pre­vented. Around 40% of can­cers in the coun­try (such as lung can­cer and can­cers of mouth) are caused by to­bacco use and an­other 20% from in­fec­tions such as hepati­tis B that cause liver can­cer and hu­man pa­pil­lo­mavirus, which can lead to cer­vi­cal can­cer. Can­cer cases in India are ris­ing not just be­cause of bet­ter di­ag­nos­tic fa­cil­i­ties but also owing to the shift in the way we lead our lives. To­bacco and al­co­hol use, con­sump­tion of pro­cessed food, air pol­lu­tion and obe­sity are among the big­gest trig­gers of the dis­ease. In­dian Coun­cil of Med­i­cal Re­search es­ti­mates say India is likely to have more than 17.3 lakh new cases of can­cer and more than 8.8 lakh deaths due to the dis­ease by 2020.

But the sil­ver lin­ing is that the risk of can­cer can be slashed sig­nif­i­cantly by cur­tail­ing to­bacco use, get­ting vac­ci­na­tions for cer­tain types of can­cer and adopt­ing a health­ier life­style. Changes that re­duce the bur­den of can­cer will also have a pos­i­tive ef­fect on the econ­omy. A com­bi­na­tion of to­bacco con­trol, al­co­hol con­trol, vac­ci­na­tion pro­grammes and can­cer screen­ing will lead to sig­nif­i­cant gains for both the phys­i­cal and the eco­nomic health of India.

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