The global economic crisis of 2008 didn’t just cost people their jobs, it is linked to an estimated 260,000 additional cancer deaths in countries within the Organisation for Economic Development (OECD), according to new study that includes data from Canada.
The study, published in the Lancet, looked at the link between unemployment, changes in public health-care spending, and cancer mortality using data from 1990-2010 in over 70 countries worldwide, representing more than two billion people.
Researchers found that a one per cent rise in unemployment was associated with 0.37 additional cancer deaths per 100,000 people.
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The study also compared cancers considered “treatable” (survival rates over 50 per cent), such as breast and prostate cancer, and those considered “untreatable” such as lung and pancreatic cancer, which have five year survival rates of less than 10 per cent.
They found a strong relationship between rising unemployment and increased deaths from treatable cancers. After comparing estimates of expected cancer deaths with actual deaths from cancer during the two-year height of the global recession, they found the downturn was linked with more than 260,000 excess cancer deaths
Cancer Incidence by State | HealthGrove
“In countries without universal health coverage, access to health care can often be provided via an employment package,” said co-author Rifat Atun, a professor of global health systems at Harvard Chan School in Boston, in a statement.
“Without employment, patients may be diagnosed late, and face poor or delayed treatment.”
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Lead author Dr. Mahiben Maruthappu, with the Imperial College London, UK, says the results also suggest “healthcare cuts could cost lives” during times of high employment.
“If health systems experience funding constraints, this must be matched by efficiency improvements to ensure patients are offered the same level of care, regardless of economic environment or employment status,” said Maruthappu.
The authors of the study say it can only show an association between mortality, unemployment and public-sector spending, and cannot prove cause and effect.
Cancer accounted for 8.2 million deaths in 2012, and the number of cases is expected to increase from 14 million in 2012 to 22 million in 2030, according to the study.