Increase in Cancer Deaths Linked to Economic Crisis

Increase in Cancer Deaths Linked to Economic CrisisIncrease in Cancer Deaths Linked to Economic Crisis

In the first analysis of its kind, researchers found that unemployment and reduced public sector healthcare spending in the 2008-2010 global economic crisis was linked to an increase in cancer deaths.

For countries in the Organization for Economic Development (OECD), they estimate the crisis is linked to over 260,000 additional cancer deaths, including 160,000 in the European Union.

Researchers, from institutions in the United States and the United Kingdom, discussed their analysis in a paper published in The Lancet.

They explain how the crisis that hit economies around the world in 2008-2010 was accompanied by a substantial rise in unemployment and caused many countries to cut their spending on public sector healthcare, reported.

Several studies have shown that these changes are linked to negative effects on public health - for instance, increases in suicide and cardiovascular diseases. Lead author Dr. Mahiben Maruthappu, of the Faculty of Medicine at Imperial College London in the UK, explains as cancer is a leading cause of death worldwide, it is very important to look at the effect economic changes may have on cancer survival.

“We found that increased unemployment was associated with increased cancer mortality, but that universal health coverage protected against these effects. This was especially the case for treatable cancers including breast, prostate and colorectal cancer.”

He and his colleagues also found that public healthcare expenditure was tightly linked with cancer deaths - suggesting cuts in healthcare may cost lives.

“If health systems experience funding constraints,” says Maruthappu, “this must be matched by efficiency improvements to ensure patients are offered the same level of care, regardless of economic environment or employment status.”

Researchers obtained economic data from the World Bank and figures on cancer deaths from the World Health Organization (WHO) Mortality Database to analyze links between unemployment, public healthcare spending, and cancer deaths. The overall data spanned 2 decades - from 1990-2010 - and covered 2 billion people in over 70 countries.

  Expected to Rise

Globally, there were 8.2 million cancer-related deaths in 2012; the number of new cancer cases per year is expected to rise from 14 million in 2012 to 22 million within the next 2 decades.

Tobacco use, alcohol use, unhealthy diet, and lack of physical activity are the main risk factors worldwide. The analysis included deaths from prostate cancer, breast cancer, colorectal cancer, and lung cancer. Cancers with survival rates exceeding 50% were classed as treatable, while those with survival rates under 10% were classed as untreatable.

They deemed countries to have universal healthcare coverage if they met certain criteria. These included, for example, legislation mandating universal healthcare coverage, some form of health insurance being available to 90% of the population, and over 90% of the population having access to skilled birth attendance.

The results show that increase in unemployment were tied to increases in deaths from all types of cancer, but this link disappeared when the figures were adjusted to take universal healthcare into account.