We’re nearly halfway through Movember, the month we grow our moustache in order to raise awareness about men’s health. I am in Amsterdam, for a congress and this was the hardest day of the month so far: since 8am, nearly every single person I met said it didn’t look good. And this can be harsh when you talk with (potential) business partners! However, practically, when you have time, this is an unique opportunity to initiate discussions with others about prostate cancer.
Last week, United Nations gathered in New York, USA, to talk about prevention and control of non-communicable diseases (NCDs). Non-communicable diseases are non-infectious, of long duration and generally progressing slowly. Due to the fact they are not infectious, there is no pathogen to target and there is no transmission medium to fight. Due to their long duration and slow progression, one usually notices NCDs when it’s too late and eradicating NCDs is less spectacular than other (not less important) infectious diseases. However WHO measured that NCDs represents more than 60% of all deaths in the world. For the occasion, WHO released an introductory video that summarize the issue.
So there are 4 main non-communicable diseases:
Diabetes (both of them represent 70% of deaths by NCDs)
Cancers (~ 20% of deaths by NCDs)
Chronic respiratory diseases (~ 10% of deaths by NCDs)
Although NCDs were considered as a disease limited to high income countries (with infectious diseases affecting low income countries), this is not really the case anymore. For instance, the map of male deaths due to cardiovascular diseases and diabetes in 2008 shows an approximately uniform rate in high income countries with some higher rates in low income countries (especially on the African continent).
If nothing is done, the incidence of NCDs will increase. On top of being a health issue, a matter of life and death, it will also become an economical problem as the costs of treatment as well as the indirect costs will also dramatically increase (increase per case treated and increase due to the number of cases treated).
If you are looking for more figures about the cost of non-communicable diseases, here are two detailed reports recently published:
In a nutshell, non-communicable diseases are everywhere and the future doesn’t look happy. However …
However risk factors are identified and many of them are related to our own lifestyle:
Harmful use of alcohol
To end on a positive note, all these risk factors can be easily controlled and for a limited additional cost. For instance, governments can protect people from tobacco (taxes as well as bans on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship, …) and alcohol (access restriction, bans on advertising, …) as well as promote public awareness about diet and physical activity. Companies can also promote healthy diet and physical activities to their employees. On top of that, the food industry can also include relevant actions in their corporate social responsibility policies. Finally on a personal level, we can increase our physical activity, increase fruit and vegetable intake, reduce our use of tobacco and alcohol, etc. Simple, cheap actions ; huge interesting consequences.
These figures represent cases of cancer and not deaths by cancer. Note also that prostate cancer is in third position but only concerns males.
The latests data is from 2006. The website doesn’t seem to be updated since 2008 (and 2008 seems to be the year when data from 2006 are available ; if we follow the 2-years-gap logic, I guess the data from 2009 are available somewhere but not on this website)
Data accessibility seems to be average. Data is there in Excel format (and PDF which is pretty useless if you want to reuse the data). On one side, these Excel files can be opened by almost every office suite. On the other side, some open format would have been preferred. And some direct interaction with the data on the website is now the norm (ok, I just wrote it doesn’t seem to be updated since 2008)