Bad habits add $34b to annual cost of cancer: study

Updated: 2013-07-03 11:26

(China Daily)

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Bad health habits such as smoking, alcohol consumption, poor nutrition and physical inactivity add approximately $33.9 billion annually to the global cost of treating cancer, and reducing those habits could potentially save healthcare systems $25 billion each year, according to a study by GE Healthcare.

The study - which calculated the annual cancer costs attributable to bad habits in 10 developed and developing countries and potential savings - found that the United States spends the most to treat cancer and China is No 2.

The US spends $18.41 billion, or 54 percent of the total current annual global cost of cancer, and China spends $8.57 billion, or 25.3 percent, according to the study.

The two countries also rank first and second in potential annual savings from reducing the bad habits: $13.37 billion, or 53.5 percent of the total annual cost for the US, and $6.5 billion, or 26 percent, for China.

The study focused on smoking, alcohol consumption, poor nutrition and physical inactivity and their relationship to breast, lung and colon cancer. Research was conducted in May and June 2013 by GfK Bridgehead for GE Healthcare, a UK-based division of General Electric Co. It used published clinical evidence and research in each country and World Health Organization population data.

"The cumulative global cost of bad habits revealed in this research is staggering," said Jeff DeMarrais, chief communications officer of GE Healthcare. "I am encouraged by the potential savings that could be achieved by all of us just making a few small lifestyle changes and committing to a personal monitoring schedule."

After China on spending were France, Germany and Turkey at about $1.5 billion each, or 4.4 percent of the total annual cost; Japan, $731 million, 2.2 percent; the UK, $649 million, 1.9 percent; India, $617 million, 1.8 percent; Brazil, $378 million, 1.1 percent; and Saudi Arabia, $107 million, 0.3 percent.

In addition to smoking being linked to the development of lung cancer, the data showed that inactivity and poor nutrition can also increase the risk of cancer. Men who are inactive are 61 percent more likely to develop colon cancer than someone who is active and inactivity can account for $160 million of the cost to treat colon cancer globally, according to the study.

"Up to half of all cancer-related deaths can be prevented by making healthy choices, like maintaining a healthy weight, not smoking, eating properly, being physically active and undertaking recommended screening tests," but the study and WHO data show that bad habits continue to be prevalent in all 10 countries, according to the study's press release.

In seven of 10 countries, more than 25 percent of those populations are still regular smokers, with smoking most prevalent in France and Turkey where 31 percent of adults over the age of 15 are smokers, followed by Germany at 30 percent; the US at 29 percent; 27 percent in China and Japan; and 24 percent in the UK.

In physical inactivity for adults over the age of 18, Saudi Arabia and the UK ranked at the bottom, with 68.8 percent of Saudi nationals and 63.3 percent of British nationals over the age of 18 leading sedentary lifestyles, compared to 15.6 percent of Indians, 31 percent of Chinese and 40.5 percent of Americans.

GE Healthcare's "GetFit 2013" campaign runs until mid-July and uses social media channels including Instagram, Twitter and Sina Weibo in China to promote health habits that can reduce the likelihood of developing cancer.

China Daily

(China Daily USA 07/03/2013 page1)