Workplace Strategies to Promote Early Cancer Detection and Prevention

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 factors for 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, 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 Kate O’Reilly, Medical Director at International SOS, said: “For many, the fight against cancer often emphasises post-diagnosis care, management, or treatment after it manifests. World Cancer Day serves as a crucial reminder of the impact of cancer and the potential for proactive intervention. Prioritising cancer awareness, accessible screening and prevention programmes isn’t just beneficial for individual employees, it demonstrably benefits organisations as well. These initiatives can lead to a healthier workforce, potentially reducing absenteeism and fostering a more engaged and productive work environment.

Dr O’Reilly added “Simple, yet impactful, workplace changes, such as promoting healthy food options and encouraging regular exercise, can significantly reduce cancer risks. Integrating these elements into corporate health programmes empowers employees to become active participants in their own wellbeing. It allows them to take charge of their health and potentially mitigate cancer risks.”

 In the UAE, which is one of the leading countries in terms of health services provided to cancer patients, a comprehensive strategy is being followed to address the risk of cancer among employees. The country has implemented various collaborative initiatives between the government and private sector. For instance, the Ministry of Health and Prevention (MoHAP) of the UAE has implemented awareness campaigns utilising various channels, including media, social networking, smart applications and educational programs. The key goal of these efforts is to inform the public about factors that raise cancer risks, symptoms and the relevance of regular check-ups.

 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.

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