Surviving cancer: only a quarter of employees medically assessed for risk of serious illness

Sunday, 4 June, is National Cancer Survivors’ Day. With lifestyle having a huge impact on the prevention of cancer, and early detection being key to better outcomes, medical assessments can be a crucial piece of the puzzle. However, research revealed today by Towergate Health & Protection shows that only a quarter (26%) of employers offer their employees a medical assessment of their risk of serious illness.

Risk profiling of employees’ health and wellbeing assesses their propensity to particular health conditions so that employers can adapt their support to best meet likely requirements. The research, among companies of all sizes across the UK, revealed that the most likely risk profiling activity for employees, offered by just over a third (36%) of employers, is a medical questionnaire covering their risk of serious illness, with no physical examination or assessment. Over a quarter (28%) of employers offer no form of risk profiling at all for employees.

The companies surveyed offer:

  • Questionnaire regarding basic areas of weight and fitness 27%
  • Questionnaire regarding risk of serious illness 36%
  • Medical assessment of basic areas of weight and fitness 24%
  • Medical assessment of risk of serious illness 26%
  • No risk profiling assessment 28%

Debra Clark, head of wellbeing at Towergate Health & Protection, says: “With early detection of cancer being so key to better outcomes, and lifestyle factors having such a big impact on the prevention of cancer, risk profiling is a valuable benefit for employees.”

Lifestyle choices can help to reduce the risk of getting cancer, such as keeping to a healthy weight, avoiding tobacco, limiting alcohol consumption, and protecting the skin from the sun. Risk profiling helps employees to make informed decisions about any lifestyle changes they may wish to make. There are then many options for an employer to support employees in helping them achieve this, from alcohol- and smoking-cessation programmes to apps giving personalised support for health and fitness, from step counters to nutrition advice.

The value to the employer

The research went on to ask why employers thought it would be valuable to have a better understanding of the risk profile of the health and wellbeing of their employees.

The most popular reason, stated by 38% of companies, was that it would mean they could tailor their health and wellbeing support, which would help them to meet their corporate and social responsibilities (CSR). This was closely followed by 36% who recognised that if they were only able to offer a limited range of health and wellbeing support, it would enable them to prioritise the most relevant. Thirty-five per cent could see the benefits in being able to tailor health and wellbeing support to the specific needs of the workforce, and in aiding recruitment and retention. All of which mean that those at greater risk of cancer will be likely to receive the health and wellbeing support that will benefit them most.

Debra Clark comments: “The wider benefits of risk profiling, relating to CSR, recruitment and retention, show that while there are clear advantages to the employees themselves, there are also benefits to the employer and to the business. Assessment of risks and early detection of cancer and other serious illnesses can only be a good thing all round.”

Cancer can be survivable, and National Cancer Survivors’ Day is a day to honour those who are living with a history of cancer, and to acknowledge the support of their families, friends, employers, and healthcare providers. Towergate Health & Protection is asking employers to use this day as motivation to consider risk profiling the health and wellbeing of their employees, to help them to recognise and understand the risks and to take steps to mitigate them where possible.


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