Cancer is one of the leading global killers, with annual new cancer cases projected to rise to 17 million by 2020. Across the world, more than a fifth of all deaths from non-communicable diseases are from cancer.
What will this lead too? From our research, we foresee that almost half of the worldʼs new cancer cases will occur in Asia. South Koreans are more likely to die from cancer than from any other cause, while in Singapore, where one in three people dies of cancer, there are 13 deaths and 31 new diagnoses every day. In China, cancer is the leading cause of death in both urban and rural areas – an eight year old girl recently became Chinaʼs youngest lung cancer patient, with doctors attributing her condition to air pollution.
These few statistics and real life cases highlight the profound impact cancer has on the health of Asiaʼs population; they also emphasise the importance of the industry's understanding of incidence and risk factors, including past and emerging trends in the development of the most prevalent types of cancer in this region.
When it comes to prostate cancer, the incidence of prostate cancer is lower in Asian men than in Western populations, however, a rapid increase in incidence has been observed over the past two decades in Asia, with no signs of reversal. This rise is believed to have been driven by advances in detection of prostate cancer and the adoption of western lifestyle, including eating habits. Advanced biomarkers will be a key part of the next generation of detection tools and will likely mean that prostate cancer can be identified at an earlier stage.
Colorectal cancer (CRC) is the fourth most common cancer in the world, after lung, prostate and breast cancer, with over 1.3 million new cases diagnosed every year. Of these, approximately 45% are being diagnosed in Asia, and over 331 000 people died of CRC in 2012. There has been dramatic rise in CRC incidence and mortality in Asia over the past two decades, with many Asian countries (China, Japan, Singapore, South Korea), experiencing a two to four fold increase in incidence during this period. The rising trends in CRC are more pronounced in affluent than in poorer societies and differ substantially between ethnic groups.
Countries in Asia and their governments have a significant role to play in trying to tackle the causes of prostate and colorectal cancer. For example, education programs to increase public awareness would contribute to increased screening rates and prevention, both being potentially effective methods of controlling the impact of the disease. For insurers, developing and refining products that help to mitigate the financial risks of cancer is a key factor in helping to support individuals. In any case, all stakeholders (e.g. governments, health care providers, insurers and reinsurers) need to work closely together to achieve optimal results.
As a leading reinsurer, Swiss Re's aim is to raise awareness and enhance the industry’s knowledge of cancer risks. Swiss Re's Asia Cancer Trends Study aims to provide a comprehensive source of information - and support insurers in developing solutions that help protect individuals and groups, and in doing so, make Asia’s societies more resilient.
To download our latest Swiss Re Asia Cancer Trend reports and infographics, please visit this link.
Category: Funding longer lives: Health/medicine, Longevity risk
Location: Hong Kong