India's cancer burden of 2.25 million people is projected to double by 2040

Over 2.25 million people in India are living with cancer today and this number is set to double by 2040 - primarily because of poor lifestyle choices.

Myupchar August 20, 2019 16:01:03 IST
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India's cancer burden of 2.25 million people is projected to double by 2040
  • Over 2.25 million people in India are living with cancer today and this number is set to double by 2040

  • Lifestyle diseases like diabetes and cancer are overtaking infections, famine and infant mortality as the leading causes of death

  • Lifestyle-related cancers like lung cancer are overtaking infectious cancers like cervical cancer

Over 2.25 million people in India are living with cancer, according to India Against Cancer - an initiative of the National Institute of Cancer Prevention and Research, Noida, Uttar Pradesh. And now, a study published in the Journal of Global Oncology says that this number could double by 2040.

The reason: India is in the midst of an epidemiologic transition. Meaning, lifestyle diseases like diabetes and cancer are overtaking infections, famine and infant mortality as the leading causes of death. Even the kinds of cancer affecting the Indian population is changing. Lifestyle-related cancers like lung cancer are overtaking infectious cancers like cervical cancer.

Indias cancer burden of 225 million people is projected to double by 2040

Representational image. AFP

According to the study, 'History of the Growing Burden of Cancer in India: From Antiquity to the 21st Century', Kerala has the highest epidemiologic transition level (ETL) in the country, and Uttar Pradesh, the lowest. Still, states like Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, Chhatisgarh, Rajasthan, Odisha, Uttaranchal and Madhya Pradesh have a higher rate of cancer mortality - partly because they have poorer public services for the management and treatment of cancer.

The data

In 2018, the India State-Level Disease Burden Cancer (ISLDBC) Collaborators collated data on the incidence of 28 types of cancer across 42 population-based cancer registries across the country. Their research showed that cancer accounted for 8·3% of total deaths in India in 2016.

The ISLDBC also identified the top five cancers among Indian men were oral, lungs, stomach, colorectal, oesophagus and women were breast, oral, cervix, lungs and gastric. They published their findings in The Lancet Oncology - a peer-reviewed journal.

The recent Journal of Global Oncology study showed that things are about to get a lot worse. Ironically, one of the reasons for this sharp rise is that fewer people are dying from cardiovascular disease in India and the longer will live the more we become prone to cancers.

What next

Cancer is one of the most serious medical issues of modern times. A disease in which the body’s cells start dividing unstoppably, it has inspired some of the most amazing advances in medical science of late. From personalised medicine to alternative therapies based on the underlying mechanism of how cancer grows, scientists are pulling out all the stops.

Of course, some of this research may be years away from human trials. In the meantime, there’s a lot we know about cancer, cancer prevention and cancer treatment.

For starters, cancer is usually a genetic disorder. If you have a family history, it’s a good idea to get screened early. Preemptive steps are also available for people who are at high risk for cancer. Case in point, actor Angelina Jolie’s decision to get a preventive mastectomy in 2013 and her decision to have her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed in 2015 to prevent ovarian cancer.

According to the World Health Organization, 30-50% of cancers are preventable. Reduced exposure to cancer risk factors like tobacco and UV rays and adopting a healthy lifestyle are the first line of defence. A single cigarette has 7,000 chemicals, out of which 50 are known to be cancerous. Quitting tobacco is easily one of the most important steps for preventing cancer. Some other prevention methods include:

  • Quitting alcohol.
  • Staying fit by eating healthy food and concentrating on physical fitness.
  • Losing weight if you are overweight or obese.
  • Cancer can also be caused by certain infections including helicobacter pylori, human papillomavirus (HPV), hepatitis B and C. Hence, management of these infections is also important.
  • Some environmental pollutants contain carcinogenic substances. Air pollution and contaminated food can make you very sick. Stay away from coal fires and other air pollutants as much as possible. Also, stay away from food containing aflatoxins - these can be present in spoilt or decaying food.
  • Wear sunscreen and protect your eyes from harmful UV rays.

Health articles in Firstpost are written by myUpchar.com, India’s first and biggest resource for verified medical information. At myUpchar, researchers and journalists work with doctors to bring you information on all things health. To know more on this topic, please visit https://www.myupchar.com/en/disease/cancer

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