Immediately, two events come to mind: A funeral for a classmate, who died at the age of 15 from Leukemia. And then, when I was 17, a good friend of mine was diagnosed with Sarcoma, had his left leg amputated…but the tumour had spread already and slowly but surely killed him.
I studied medicine and saw many more people suffering and dying from cancer. But I also saw progress. Earlier and more sophisticated diagnosis, more effective treatment regimes and overall better understanding of malignancies and their risk factors, all this brought about better care and better outcomes. Many cancer patients now survive the disease, and many end up having a normal life expectancy. But cancer often comes with co-morbidity (for instance depression) and long term disability. And of course, we are miles away from really getting on top of malignant diseases.
In fact, in many parts of the world, in particular in developing countries, we see a rise in cancer incidence. Of course, this is worrying, having so many people around the world now being affected and needing (expensive) medical care, resulting in financial and emotional stress. On a macro-economic level, premature death and disability spells financial burden on these (often fragile and unprepared) economies.
I am working in Life Insurance, where we are aiming at closing the protection gap, at providing financial relief for people in situations of catastrophic diseases. To be able to offer that service, we have to understand the dimensions of cancer, its geographic spread as well as its demographic and economic aspects. Being based in Asia makes me a little biased and curious as to what happens in this part of the world. There is a common understanding that many Asian countries, in particular those adopting more Western ways of living and working, are facing a quite dramatic surge of cancerous diseases.
But what precisely are the reasons for this, what are the known facts and known and projected trends, what exactly are the financial implications and insurance needs?
Swiss Re’s studies on Cancer Trends in Asia are an attempt to make that knowledge available to clients and other interested parties. The first two editions in this series of studies shed light on Liver Cancer and Thyroid Cancer. Both types of cancers are rather common in Asia, due to different reasons. While liver cancer can be broadly linked to viral infection (Hepatitis B and C), thyroid cancer came into the spotlight through more incidental detection of dormant tumours inside the gland.
These two studies will be complemented by further analyses on other types of cancer, building a solid foundation for Insurers to design and price products, develop information and marketing strategies and make sure insurance needs will be truly met going forward.
If we have had “live” experience with cancer, like I did when I was in my adolescent years, we intuitively understand that this is what we need to do: offer protection to people so they are financially safe in case they suffer from cancer, getting at least the econmic burden off their shoulders (there is still enough hardship cancer patients have to deal with). But as insurers we need the tools to go on this journey. The Swiss Re cancer trend studies will expedite our efforts to be successful in doing so - in diverse geographies and populations across the Asian continent.
Category: Funding longer lives: Health/medicine
Location: Hong Kong