Dam, Sfardeya, AIDS, Cancer by mattsteinglass
April 23, 2007, 11:28 am
Filed under: Asia, Health

How many plagues can a continent take? For months, I’ve been hearing Vietnamese friends worry that suddenly everyone seems to be dying of cancer. And now, Bloomberg today on rising cancer incidence in Asia:

Asia’s cancer rate may jump by almost 60 percent to 7.1 million new cases a year by 2020, straining the region’s ill-prepared health systems, said Richard Horton, editor of the British medical journal Lancet… “There really is going to be an incredible pandemic of cancer like we’ve not seen — we couldn’t have imagined it — over the next 20 years,” Horton said in an interview in Singapore, where he spoke at the Lancet Asia Medical Forum. “We barely have the health systems to handle infectious diseases, so how on earth are we going to deal with this?”

The culprits are rising tobacco use, worsening diet (more red meat, less fruits and vegetables, higher obesity), and longer lives — which isn’t really a “culprit” I guess. Anyway, the main point seems to be that cancer is incredibly expensive to treat, which puts health systems in a bind: it’s morally and politically difficult to simply not offer people treatment for a disease, but offering treatment risks breaking systems that need to deal with lower-cost, more familiar and more urgent and curable threats. And the best recommendation for avoiding a crisis? Get people to eat their vegetables and exercise more. Why is it that it seems like most of the world’s miserably insoluble problems could be taken care of by remedies a kindergartener could think up?


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