42% of employees want a better understanding of their cancer risk

Last Updated on: 22nd November 2023, 02:53 pm

In new research1 that coincides with World Cancer Day, 4 February, 42% of employers said that employees having a better understanding of their own risks of serious illnesses, like cancer, had increased in importance in today’s world.  

In addition, a third (32%) of employers said that being able to easily access screening for cancer had increased in importance to employees. This comes amidst ongoing challenges like a lack of GP appointments and increased NHS waiting lists.  

Debra Clark, head of specialist consulting at Towergate Health & Protection says: “With survival rates high in cases of early diagnosis, providing risk profiling and screening for employees is likely to have a major impact on health and wellbeing across the workplace.”  

Highly preventable

Scientists estimate that around 40% of cancer cases could be prevented2. This equates to around 155,000 cases in the UK every year.  

Early diagnosis 

For the majority of cancers, the earlier it is detected, the better the survival rate3. If an early diagnosis is made, the cancer is less developed and less likely to have spread to other parts of the body. This means treatment is often less invasive with fewer side effects and can lead to complete remission.  

Cervical cancer: When diagnosed at its earliest stage, 96% of people will survive for a year or more, this compares to 50% of people when the disease is diagnosed in the latest stage4.  

Prostate cancer: One in eight men will get prostate cancer in their lifetime5. Survival rates are extremely high in those diagnosed before symptoms develop. However, there is currently no national NHS screening programme for prostate cancer. This means that prostate cancer screening through the workplace is vital.  

The benefits of screening 

Screening plays a crucial role in early diagnosis and can help to detect cancers at the earliest stages before symptoms develop. There are many screening tests which can be done, some of which can be carried out at home, including for bowel and prostate cancer, others of which a visit to a clinic is needed, and some that can be carried out onsite at workplaces. Employers can provide access to many of these via their health and wellbeing programmes. 

Wider awareness and prevention 

Offering screening through the workplace can also help with raising awareness of cancer and, therefore, preventative measures. Lifestyle changes include not smoking, eating a healthy diet, being more active, and maintaining a healthy weight, all of which can be supported by employers through their wellbeing programmes. Smoking cessation assistance and nutrition advice are valuable employee benefits, as are health and fitness apps and plans that help employees to maintain an active lifestyle.  

Debra Clark says: “Employers prompted by World Cancer Day 2023 to offer simple screening or risk profiling services could literally have saved lives by the next World Cancer Day.” 

  1. Research carried out by Opinium on behalf of Towergate Health & Protection among 500 HR decision makers from 9 – 13 January 2023.  
  2. UK Cancer Statistics and Data | World Cancer Research Fund UK (wcrf-uk.org)  
  3. Cancer survival data emphasise importance of early diagnosis | The BMJ
  4. Cervical cancer statistics | Cancer Research UK
  5. Are you at risk? | Prostate Cancer UK
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