Growing prosperity and increasingly sedentary lifestyles in Latin America could be creating a cancer time bomb, scientists are warning. Governments need to take urgent action to avoid a cancer epidemic that threatens to overwhelm the region, according to a multinational team of researchers.
They say that the current state of cancer care and prevention in Latin America is incompatible with the socio economic changes taking place in the region, where increasingly urban population faces mounting lifestyle related cancer risks. Writing in The Lancet Oncology medical journal, researchers said Latin Americans are enjoying the benefits of growing economic prosperity but also are leading longer, more sedentary lives, accompanied by a rise in alcohol consumption, smoking and obesity.
The result of these changes is an increase in cancer rates which are estimated to be on track to increase by 33% by 2020. ‘If corrective action is not taken this problem will become magnitudes of order bigger than it is today, it will create massive human suffering and it will threaten the economies of the region,’ said Paul Goss, a professor at Harvard Medical School who led the study.
Quote from Gringos.com : “The constitutional court of Colombia has ordered the government to campaign against obesity and provide operations for the disorder, reported local media on Wednesday.”
While Latin Americans contract cancer at lower rates than residents of the United States, they are nearly twice as likely to die from it and that is down to the way cancer is treated in Latin American countries. The study points out that more than half of those in the region have little or no health insurance and relatively few public health efforts are focused on preventive medicine. That means most patients seek treatment when they are at advanced stages of the disease and often too ill to be saved.
It also points out that this type of care is not only ineffective but often very expensive and the rising number of cancer patients will put a serious strain on health budgets. The study recommends that Latin American countries should start to make major changes to their healthcare policies, such as dedicating more funds to public health, widening healthcare access so cancer patients can be treated earlier and developing better national cancer plans.
It says that funds should be moved away from costly end stage cancer treatment toward palliative care and that governments should start with short term solutions such as raising taxes on tobacco and providing families with cleaner burning wood stoves. ‘If we don’t put these things on the agenda now, we won’t be prepared to deal with this in 10 or 15 years. At that point the costs will be exorbitant,’ said Carlos Barrios, a professor at Brazil’s Pontificia Universidade Catolica do Rio Grande do Sul.