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The Right to be Forgotten. What comes after the challenge of cancer?

The impact of cancer worldwide 

Cancer is a tough and complex disease faced by millions of people worldwide each year [1], according to the World Health Organization (WHO). After overcoming this challenge, cancer survivors face the social and financial consequences of the disease. For this reason, associations that have been dedicated to the fight against cancer have defended the Right to be Forgotten. But what does the Right to be Forgotten consist of and what are its implications? 

The impact of cancer worldwide and the right to be forgotten

What is the Right to be Forgotten?  

The Right to be Forgotten is a legal term referring to the right to not to have one’s medical history, particularly information on cancer, considered in different situations, which include applying for life or health insurance, seeking a loan, adopting, or starting a business, as outlined in the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). In this way, this right shields these people from being forced to justify why their previous cancer diagnosis should not be a consideration, thereby preventing any form of discrimination. 

The mark of cancer: Discrimination after remission  

Cancer is often accompanied with stress, anxiety, uncertainty, pain, and depression while patients face a long period of aggressive treatments with harsh side effects [2,3].  

After reaching remission from the disease, a new stage of restructuring emerges where patients return to work and leisure activities, establish new routines, and most importantly learn how to live life again after this traumatic experience. However, in addition to the medical and emotional side effects that cancer survivors face, they can also be victims of social and financial discrimination resulting from their illness.  This can often occur while trying to contract health insurance or applying for a loan. Indeed, in the Netherlands, a survey demonstrated that 60% of applicants with previous cancer diagnoses were either refused insurance or charged higher premiums [4]. 

Discrimination after remission, the right to be forgotten

Who benefits from the law of the Right to be Forgotten and what is its impact?  

In February 2022 the European Parliament approved the Resolution on Strengthening Europe's Fight Against Cancer and urged all Member States to incorporate the Right to be Forgotten before the year 2025. However, as of 2024, only eight European countries have joined this legal measure to counter discrimination against cancer survivors, including France, BelgiumNetherlands, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Cyprus, and Italy.  

This Resolution stated that “insurers and banks should not take into account the medical history of people who have been affected by cancer” and  should apply to “all European patients 10 years after the end of their treatment, and up to five years after the end of treatment for patients whose diagnosis was made before the age of 18” with the objective of “prevent discrimination and improve cancer survivors’ access to financial services”. 

Promoting the Right to be Forgotten involves implementing policies and legislation that protect the rights and privacy of cancer survivors. This may include specific provisions regarding medical privacy and the promotion of environments that encourage reintegration without prejudice.

By recognizing the importance of emotional recovery and respecting the privacy of those who have experienced cancer, we can build a fairer society and help those who have faced this disease regain control of their lives after the battle. 

Together, let's ensure that every cancer survivor can embrace life after the battle, free from the burden of their medical history. 



[1] World Cancer Day 2023: Close the care gap. World Health Organization. [Online] [Cited Feb 2024] Available at:

[2] Linden W, Vodermaier A, MacKenzie R, Greig D. Anxiety and depression after cancer diagnosis: Prevalence rates by cancer type, gender, and age. J Affect Disord. 2012 Dec 10;141(2-3):343-51. 

[3] Rodríguez-González A, Velasco-Durantez V, Martin-Abreu C, Cruz-Castellanos P, Hernández R, et al. Fatigue, Emotional Distress, and Illness Uncertainty in Patients with Metastatic Cancer: Results from the Prospective NEOETIC_SEOM Study. Curr Oncol. 2022 Dec; 29(12): 9722–9732. 

[4] Mols F, Thong MSY, Vissers P, Nijsten T, van de Poll-Franse LV. Socio-economic implications of cancer survivorship: Results from the PROFILES registry. Eur J Cancer. 2012 Sep;48(13):2037-42. 




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