It is a great pleasure for me to open this important event on tobacco cessation in cancer patients and speak on behalf of WHO.
Let me start by expressing gratitude to both organizers of today’s webinar: the European Network for Smoking and Tobacco Prevention and the European Cancer Patient Coalition for this amazing initiative to join forces together in the fight against cancer, but also for their longstanding efforts and contribution for better health in Europe over the years.
More than 18 million people were diagnosed with cancer around the world in 2018. Cancer is the second leading cause of death globally, with an estimated 9.6 million deaths worldwide attributable to all types of cancer in 2018.
We all know that cancer represents an enormous physical, emotional and financial burden on individuals, families, communities and health systems; a burden that continues to grow in all groups of countries, with a greatest increase in low- and middle-income countries. According to latest data available, total annual economic cost of cancer is estimated at approximately 1.2 trillion US$.
With less than 10 % of the world’s population, Europe counts for a quarter of all cancer cases, estimated to have risen to 2.7 million new cases in the first half of 2020, with 1.3 million deaths. Despite continuous improvement in survival rates, probability of survival varies across Europe, with significant inequities in prevention, timely diagnosis, treatment and care. Increasing survival means that more people are living with and after cancer.
WHO, through its Global Thirteenth General Programme of Work but also through recently approved the European program of work “United for better Health” is determined to supporting member states in improving equitable access to prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cancer patients, thus reducing inequalities and moving towards UHC, while promoting health and wellbeing, improving quality of life of survivors and their families; All these services have, in different degree, been negatively affected by the covid-19 pandemic, requiring bigger efforts from all of us.
As over the world the cancer survival rates improve, and lifespan increases, it is important to improve the cancer treatment outcomes and quality of life of these patients and one way is clearly through addressing tobacco use in patients diagnosed with cancer.
Tobacco use, as the most important risk factor for cancer, is well documented. In fact, an estimated 22% of cancer-deaths are attributable to tobacco use. But less is said on the effects of tobacco on the patient already with cancer. However, existing data suggests that tobacco use by cancer patients is linked to increased risks of adverse cancer treatment outcomes, including overall mortality, cancer-specific mortality and second primary cancers, increasing treatment-related complications and tobacco-related comorbidities such as cardiovascular and respiratory diseases.
Thus, tobacco cessation should be an integral part of cancer care in order to maximize the benefits of patient’s cancer treatment. All these patients who use tobacco have to be identified and offered smoking cessation support. Brief tobacco interventions must be incorporated into all health care systems, including oncology clinics.
Reducing tobacco use prevalence among cancer patients would reduce an avoidable burden of morbidity and premature mortality in patients with cancer.
Sustainable funding should be identified and allocated: to dedicated tobacco cessation services, to tobacco treatment training programs for health care providers and for research in this area. Along with this, the evidence-based tobacco control measures envisaged in the WHO FCTC (Framework Convention on Tobacco Control) have to be implemented in all countries, these include smoke-free legislation, mass-media anti-tobacco campaigns, labelling of tobacco products and increase in taxes of these products.
Tobacco control is about saving lives; about preventing diseases, about discouraging an addiction. And support to tobacco cessation of cancer patients is about improving treatment outcomes and quality of life of cancer survivors.
I wish you every success with the symposium and I very much hope we will continue our cooperation in this important area.
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