The present financial crisis will affect primary cancer prevention through several avenues: personal lifestyle choices, exposure to environmental risk factors, decisions made in the private sector and public policy on cancer prevention. Whilst it is clearly problematic to reach solid conclusions on a direct connection between economic crises and cancer mortality, we can identify trends that provide guidance for further action. For some lifestyle choices such as smoking or diet, we argue that public policy may channel existing tendencies during times of crisis for clear added value. In other areas, including research and health system investments, we will make the case that the resources not used now for cancer prevention efforts will lead to increased costs (both financial and human) down the road. Policy makers face a clear choice: they can follow a cost contention strategy, which may reduce expenditure in the short-term only to increase it in the long-term, or they can use the financial crisis as an opportunity to make difficult choices in terms of health service rationalisation, whilst at the same time strengthening evidence-based prevention policies. In short, we argue that despite the scarcity of funds and the governmental priorities on economic recovery, cancer prevention is more relevant now than ever.
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