[prev] …its national plan entitled Improving Outcomes. But more than that, I think we need to make employers aware that cancer is now so common that – whether they like it or not – it will affect their employees or the partners of their employees, and therefore their business.’
To give a sense of the scale of the issue, over 100,000 people of working age are being diagnosed with cancer every year in the UK, and estimates suggest that over 750,000 people of working age are currently living with a cancer diagnosis. ‘The fact is, at some point, companies will have downtime from those employees. If the cancer is only picked up at a later stage then it’s going to require more treatment, more time off work, more time recovering from ongoing treatment and a reduction in productivity from that employee. If you pick that up several years earlier, however, it’s likely that they’ll get back to work far quicker, doing the job you want them to do. So it’s better for the employee in terms of survival and outcome, and better for your company.’
There are broader, moral reasons why business should face this issue…
It has recently been shown beyond doubt that supporting cancer screening for staff can, in the long-term, save businesses money – and HSUK client Mazars, an international accounting and finance giant, now recommends HSUK screenings to its own corporate clients as a benefit for that very reason. There are perhaps, broader, moral reasons why business should face this issue.
‘There are various factors driving this rise in cancer,’ says Gordon Wishart. ‘A number of lifestyle factors increase your risk – obesity, and consumption of alcohol, for example – but some are work-related. If we take breast cancer as an example – my own area of specialism – we have an increasing incidence year on year in the UK. At the moment, one in every eight women will get breast cancer in their lifetime. Within ten years it’ll be one in seven. There are quite a number of reproductive factors that contribute to this increase. For example, if you don’t have children, or you have your first child at a later age, that increases your risk. With the current pressure on women to work, an increasing number don’t have children, or delay having their first child, but the price of this is an increased risk of breast cancer. More women now work shifts that involve working at night – it’s one of the ways that women can have children but still go to work. We now know that night work puts the breast cancer risk up, as does working in a flight crew. Shift work also increases the risk of prostate cancer in men.’
The example of breast cancer shows beyond doubt that we can significantly improve the survival rate if we tackle it the right way
If that is not already bad enough, recent US reports show that being under stress and sitting for long periods also increase your risk – to such an extent that some commentators in the US have declared: ‘Sitting is the new smoking’. You may not be working down a mine, and you may be leaving your workplace at a perfectly reasonable hour – but that comfortable office job could still be increasing your cancer risk.
So, what’s the good news in all this? Well, one example – breast cancer – shows beyond doubt that we can significantly improve the survival rate if we tackle it the right way. Like other types of cancer, breast cancer is increasing, with around 50,000 new cases in the UK per annum (2010 figures). While the incidence of breast cancer has increased, however, the mortality rate has actually… [cont]