The Effect of Cancer on Global Health
When you think of ‘global health issues,’ you often think of viruses being spread in third-world countries. However, that’s not always the case. One of the most important and widespread health problems today is something closer to home: cancer. As the second leading cause of death globally, you might already know the answer to the question: Is cancer a global health issue?
What is Cancer?
Cancer is the term used to describe a vast collection of related diseases, characterized by uncontrolled cell division. Cancer can affect any part of the body and often presents as a solid mass of cells called a tumor, and can be fatal, especially without treatment. Cancer risk factors include, but are not limited to the following:
- Tobacco Use – The use of tobacco products, including cigarettes and smokeless tobacco, has been known to be a leading cause behind lung cancer and various head-and-neck cancers.
- Alcohol Use – Damage caused by excessive alcohol use to the liver and other organs has also been linked to various cancers.
- Obesity – High BMI and physical inactivity, paired with unhealthy eating habits, can cause major health issues in addition
- Genetic Markers – A patient’s risk for certain cancers can be linked to inherited traits, which may prompt some to seek genetic counseling or early diagnostic tools.
Who Does it Affect?
Cancer is a widespread and global disease, affecting people of every race, nationality, and income level. However, the greatest risk factor for poor outcome in a cancer diagnosis remains to be poverty, as lack of access to life-saving procedures, medications, and even diagnostic tools are less likely to be available or even affordable. This is a widespread problem, as the burden of the cost of care can affect not only cancer patients, but their families, communities, and governments. The economic impact of cancer is staggering, both on an individual and on a global scale.
What Can Be Done?
High-income countries have led the way in cancer research, increasing the knowledge surrounding various cancers and their causes; however, that cancer research often remains far away from many lower-income people who live in developing countries. By increasing political support for cancer prevention policies and humanitarian assistance to improve access to medical cancer care, more fortunate communities can contribute to the global fight against cancer.
Cancer, like diabetes, is a global health issue that has a disproportionally negative effect on lower-income populations. While prevention is key, cancer-related initiatives to increase research on possible cures and make treatment accessible to even impoverished world populations can help achieve global health goals to overcome this disease.