World Cancer Day: The first day in a renewed fight to beat cancer sooner

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV.COM Ltd.

Catherine Castledine

Catherine Castledine [Cancer Research UK]

It’s important that the fight against cancer takes place every day, and across all policies, writes Catherine Castledine on World Cancer Day, writes Catherine Castledine.

Catherine Castledine is EU public affairs manager at Cancer Research UK.

New figures released today by Cancer Research UK show that one in two people living in the UK will develop cancer at some point in their lives.  In Europe, 3.5 million people are diagnosed with – and 1.8 million people die of – cancer each year. 

Differences between European countries in the number of people being diagnosed with and dying from cancer come about for different reasons: lifestyle, how early people are diagnosed, the access they have to treatments and the quality of these treatments are all contributing factors.

Yet the need for political action to beat cancer sooner is a common thread that unites all countries in Europe and worldwide. Today – World Cancer Day – is a timely opportunity for us all to commit to keeping cancer at the top of the health policy agenda.

How research is regulated has a direct impact on the fight against cancer. A research-friendly environment is one where funding is consistent and predictable, and where researchers have the tools they need to flourish, within the limits of sound safeguards. Now is a pivotal moment –Europe’s research environment and policymakers have a crucial role to play.

The European Parliament’s position on the EU data protection regulation – were it to be implemented – would be devastating for research. By limiting researchers’ use of personal data, the draft law would slow down or even stop some of the game-changing research going on today. It’s vital that the final text of the law exempts the research sector from the obligation to seek consent for the use of personal data, provided sound privacy conditions are met. 

At the same time, the research sector has serious concerns about cuts made to the EU’s research funding programme, Horizon 2020, by the new Commission President’s proposal for a new investment programme. Horizon 2020 has a vital role to play in keeping Europe healthy and competitive, and needs to be safeguarded. It’s vital that a guarantee is established to ensure that any money taken from this programme is channelled directly back into research. 

More generally, it is vital that the European Commission comes forward with a new model for ensuring scientific evidence is embedded into policies across the board, and that new policies are effectively reviewed for their impact on health and research. 

Promoting public health, and protecting the next generation from some of the things we know are harmful, like tobacco, is equally vital. In 2014, the EU bought in a game-changing piece of legislation that will save lives across Europe, the Tobacco Products Directive. But there’s no room for complacency, and it’s vital that the new Commission and Parliament do even more to protect people from the harmful effects of tobacco through the EU tobacco tax directive that we are expecting next year. 

Above all, it’s important that the fight against cancer takes place every day, and across all policies. 

Let’s all resolve to make World Cancer Day the first day in a renewed fight to beat cancer sooner.

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