As World Cancer Day is fast approaching, International SOS, the world’s leading health and security risk services company, emphasises the growing importance of early detection and prevention of cancer in corporate health strategies. While cancer remains a significant global health burden, proactive measures evidently reduce mortality rates. Recent data suggests that at least 40% of all cancer cases reported could be prevented through effective primary prevention measures.1
Workplace environment and working hours can have a profound influence on the physical and mental health and wellbeing of employees.2 Individuals spend a substantial portion of their lives at work, some potentially exposed to risk factors such as hazardous materials, long working hours, or cigarette smoke. Workplace habits can also contribute to physical inactivity and unhealthy eating patterns3, both known risk factorsfor cancer. Consequently, the workplace can play a critical role in shaping health habits and mitigating cancer risks.
While genetics are likely to play a part in the rise of cancer cases in young people, experts suggest that smoking, alcohol consumption and obesity are key risk factors. Based on trends over the past three decades, researchers estimate that in 2030, the global number of new early onset cancer cases will rise by 31%, while associated deaths will increase by 21%. Individuals in their 40s are predicted be the most at risk.4
Dr Vikram Vora, Medical Director at International SOS, India, comments “The fight against cancer in most cases is an individual story that begins after a diagnosis is made. World Cancer Day is a time to understand that collective efforts can prevent individual suffering. Employers can support their workforce by generating awareness, facilitating regular cancer screening, and partnering with medical providers to inform, identify and intervene early. This helps in reducing absenteeism, maintaining productivity, and ensuring sustainability.”
Dr Vikram Vora adds “Having a well-designed employee health and wellbeing program that includes periodic risk assessment for common cancers and onsite availability of health resources, helps employees make healthier lifestyle choices, which in turn can significantly reduce cancer risk..”
International SOS outlines some strategies to mitigate cancer risk for employees and how organisations can strengthen their workplace support:
1. Provide education and awareness: Educate employees about common cancer risks, warning signs and available resources. Host regular workshops and information campaigns to empower employees to be proactive about their health and seek prompt medical attention if they notice any potential symptoms.
2. Encourage regular screening: Early diagnosis of cancer nearly always results in better treatment outcomes. Ensure employees’ health benefits cover key screenings and that your organisation’s policy makes screenings feasible. Encourage employees to take time off for their annual medical exam.
3. Promote healthy habits: Provide access to healthy food options in your organisation’s cafeteria and onsite vending machines. Implement initiatives such as wellness programmes, step challenges and discounted gym memberships to encourage physical activity and healthy eating habits.
4. Encourage open communication: Create a safe and supportive environment where employees feel comfortable discussing cancer concerns and accessing resources. Offer confidential counselling services through Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs).
5. Conduct a workplace assessment: Analyse potential workplace hazards that might increase cancer risk, such as exposure to carcinogens. Implement control measures to minimise risks and promote a healthy working environment. Modern office work may also contribute directly to three cancer risk factors, including excess body weight, diet and physical inactivity.
6. Implement a smoke-free workplace: 25% of all cancer deaths are caused by tobacco use and providing employees with smoking-cessation support helps reduce the risk.5 Enact a strict smoke-free policy to protect employees from second-hand smoke, a significant cancer risk factor.
7. Provide holistic care and support: Extend employee assistance programmes to include cancer-specific resources. Offer access to counselling, financial planning assistance and support groups throughout the cancer journey.