India Faces Huge Cancer Burden: Experts

By  ,  Onlymyhealth editorial team
Apr 15, 2014

They are the world’s two most populous countries and both face a cancer crisis! smoking, belated diagnosis and unequal access to treatment have caused large-scale problems for India and China.

cancer deaths in IndiaFacts According to the Study

Every year nearly one million new cancer cases are diagnosed in India, the prevalence being 2.5 million. With mortalities of 6,00,000-7,00,000 a year, cancer causes six per cent of all adult deaths in the country.

This death toll is projected to rise to around 1.2 million deaths per year by 2035, a new report on cancer care in India published in The Lancet Oncology reported. Currently, people in the 30-69 age group account for over two-thirds of cancer deaths in India, with less than a third of the patients surviving more than five years after diagnosis.

In China, cancer now accounts for one in every five deaths, ranking second only to cardiovascular disease as the most common cause of mortality, according to the study.

Sixty percent of cancer cases in China are attributable to "modifiable environmental factors," including smoking, water contamination and air pollution, the report said.

The new report has been compiled by Prof Richard Sullivan and Prof Arnie Purushotham from King’s Health Partners Cancer Centre at King’s College London with the help of senior Indian colleagues including Prof C.S. Pramesh and Prof Rajan Badwe at the Tata Memorial Cancer Centre, Mumbai.

“Access to affordable cancer treatment and care in India lags behind other parts of the world. Making such treatment and care accessible will require addressing its causes, while also developing affordable treatments,” Prof Sunil Khilnani, director, King’s India Institute, King’s College London, said.

Common cancers

The most common, nearly half of all, are cancers of the lung and oral cavity in men, and of the breast and cervix in women.

The rate of occurrence of lung cancer is 11 per 1,00,000 individuals and of oral cavity cancer, 10.1. The rates of occurrences of breast and cervical cancers are 25.8 and 22.

“Almost three of five cancer deaths in India are associated with tobacco or infectious diseases,” notes a paper by Richard Sullivan of King’s College London and others.

Tobacco use alone accounts for about 40 per cent of all cancers in India. “About 275 million Indians (35 per cent of adult population and 14.1 per cent of children aged 13-15 years) are tobacco users, mainly smokeless tobacco,” says a paper by Paul E. Goss of Harvard Medical School, Boston, and others.

What can be Done

With the direct and indirect costs of tobacco-related diseases touching nearly $5,000 million in 2002-2003, “the cost of tobacco consumption exceeds the total combined revenue and capital expenditure [budget estimates] by the government and the States on medical and public health, water supply and sanitation,” says a paper by C.S. Pramesh of the Mumbai-based Tata Memorial Centre.

‘The need for political commitment and action is at the heart of the solution to India’s growing cancer burden,’ said Mohandas Mallath, a professor at the Tata Medical Centre in Kolkata. ‘The extent to which death and illness from cancer will actually increase in the next 20 years will depend a lot on the investments made in future decades in tobacco control, healthcare delivery, cancer research, (and) clinical trials,’ he said. Also vital, he said, will be boosting public awareness about smoking and of the benefits a healthy diet and lifestyle, as well as investment in vaccinations against cancer-causing viruses.

Some Common Cancer-related Myths

Myth 1: Nothing can be done about cancer. Treatment is only meant to delay death

With early diagnosis and right treatment strategies, one third of common cancers can be prevented and treated. According to 2008 statistics on cancer survivors, 0.64 million deaths were reported in India. This number has reduced to 0.56 million according to the 2010 statistics.

Myth 2: You cannot control your risk of getting cancer

There’s no single magical spell that can completely prevent cancer, but with awareness, lifestyle and dietary changes, the risk of cancer can be reduced greatly.

Myth 3: If you don’t have anyone in your family suffering from cancer, you have nothing to worry about

Fact: It’s true that cancer is hereditary, but only 5 to 10 percent of cancers are inherited through genes. Mutation in cancer causing genes is the main reason why cancer develops during a lifetime.

Source: The Hindu
Image Source: Getty Images

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