On February 4th, World Cancer Day, people from all around the globe will unite in the battle against a disease which has taken so much from so many. Organized by the Union for International Cancer Control (UICC), the mission of World Cancer Day is to, “save millions of preventable deaths each year by raising awareness and education about the disease, pressing governments and individuals across the world to take action.”
The need to take action has never been more urgent. Each year, more than 8 million people die from cancer. If left unchecked, the UICC predicts that cancer will kill 13 million people by the year 2030.
To combat this global crisis, the UICC brings together over 800 organizations from 155 countries to help share knowledge, fund research, and raise awareness of the disease. Established in 2000 by the Paris Charter, World Cancer Day serves as a yearly focal point from which the global community can capture the attention of public officials around the world.
But World Cancer Day doesn’t exclusively happen on an international scale, events are happening in cities all around the U.S.; find a World Cancer Day event in your area.
We Can. I Can.
This year marks the start of a 3-year campaign to reduce the global burden of cancer. World Cancer Day 2016-2018 seeks to empower both groups and individuals to take action and make a positive difference. The tagline for the campaign – “We can. I can.” – underscores the idea that no one is alone in their fight against cancer, and that each individual has the ability to make decisions that will benefit their own life and their community.
As an individual, one can make healthy lifestyle choices, share their story, be a valuable supporter, and understand that early detection saves lives. Early detection is extremely important because cancer is much easier and effective to prevent than it is to treat.
Collectively, groups can challenge perceptions, improve access to cancer care, create healthy environments at home and in the workplace, and shape policy change. Both employers and government officials need to be made aware of the risks their workers and families face every day.
Creating Healthier Environments
One of the Key Messages in World Cancer Day’s 3-year campaign is to create healthy environments. “Schools and workplaces,” organizers write, “have important roles to play in preventing cancer.” Providing a smoke-free environment with healthy eating options is important, but so too are policies and programs which raise awareness about cancer risk factors and the importance of early detection.
The UICC has been vocal in their effort to raise awareness about asbestos and to debunk the myths surrounding it. Exposure to asbestos can cause mesothelioma and other devastating, lethal illnesses. In the words of the UICC:
- FACT: Asbestos is legal and lethal in the USA.
- FACT: Asbestos kills 30 Americans every day and imports continue.
- FACT: Prevention remains the only “cure.”
The risk of mesothelioma does not decrease once someone is no longer exposed to asbestos. According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), the risk appears to be lifelong. Despite everything that is known about the risks, the UICC says that:
“The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 177,000 cancer deaths each year are related to occupational exposure to selected carcinogens, with one in every three deaths estimated to be caused by asbestos.”
With so many people and their families already affected by the disease, it’s more important than ever to join in the fight in making certain everyone is going to work in a healthy environment.
Shaping Policy Change
Another one of the Key Messages of World Cancer Day calls for people to come together to shape policy change. Individuals and groups need to speak up to make sure that laws and regulations are put in place that can reduce the risk of environmental exposures, ensure responsible labelling and advertising, and improve access to cancer medicines. They write:
“Patients, families, healthcare providers, and civil society now need to continue to advocate to governments for the implementation of policies and programs at the national level that translate these commitments into action for patients and their families.”
World Cancer Day will raise awareness every year on February 4th, but it’s also up to individuals to make a lasting change. Use this Thursday to reach out to those who need your support or to jumpstart a conversation about making your workplace a healthier one. Every Action Counts, so find out how to get involved and take part in the fight against cancer.