Rudi van Rooyen, Hollard Group Risk Executive Head: Actuarial
I never thought that I would be among hundreds of South African men dashing down Johannesburg’s streets wearing little more than a purple speedo; but the need to raise awareness around cancers that affect men outweighed any reservations that I may have had.
So, on 13 October 2023, I joined my fellow South African men to tackle the annual Hollard Dare Devil Run. The 5km event is held each year to promote awareness about the main cancers affecting men, most notably prostate and testicular cancer. In addition to fundraising, the hope is that extensive media coverage of this event will encourage more men to visit their GP and have the recommended screenings for the disease.
Cancer features at or near the top of most life insurers’ death and disability statistics for both genders, and the disease has a significant impact on any country’s active workforce. When looking at the Hollard Group Risk claim statistics, we find that around 16% of the more than 2200 admitted income disability claims paid since 2016 are due to cancer, with the proportion of claims with cancer as the main cause rising from around 14% annually prior to 2019, to 17% per annum thereafter. We have also seen a worrying increase in the proportion of cancer claims from male insureds.
The percentage of cancer claims for males increased from 36% per annum, prior to 2020, to 53% per annum since – and although the claim statistics are somewhat influenced by the composition of female to male insureds across our portfolio, this still represents an alarming increase over time. Cancer is also the main cause for critical illness claims, where 58% of the claims since 2016 were due to cancer and 39% of these claims being from male employees.
Prostate cancer remains a dominant concern, with the 2019 National Cancer Registry estimating that 1-in-15 men will be affected by the disease during their lifetimes. The Cancer Association of South Africa (CANSA) also identifies prostate cancer as among the most common cancers affecting South African men, with the number of reported prostate cancer cases per 100000 lives almost doubling between 2007 and 2019.
The medical community believes that regular screening for and early detection of these cancers can go a long way towards reducing the severity of the disease and preventing death, particularly for testicular cancer as it is highly curable when diagnosed at an early stage. Unfortunately, the awareness in South Africa is low, and regular screening is not happening among the majority of South African men.
As a specialist provider of group risk benefits for death, disability and critical illness events, Hollard Group Risk is quite aware of the emotional and financial impact of cancer. We also appreciate that our duty goes way beyond simply stepping up to pay valid claims, to taking an active interest in the wellness of the thousands of employees on our group risk schemes.
In this context, the proactive management of illnesses for our clients is among our key operational focuses and we are also calling on intermediaries and employers to engage with us on how best to promote and manage employee wellness, including healthy lifestyles and screening for cancers and various other illnesses that impacts employees.
While we make steady progress through traditional channels, we will continue to don our purple speedos and take to the streets of South Africa in support of the Hollard Dare Devil Run each year. The 2023 event has come and gone; but for next year the Hollard Group Risk team would love our clients, their employees and the intermediaries who assist them to join us as we tackle South Africa’s male cancer awareness challenge, together.