Cancer second biggest killer after heart disease in India, accounts for 15% of all deaths in 2013

  • Sanchita Sharma, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: May 29, 2015 00:51 IST

More people are dying of cancer than ever before, with cancers accounting for 15% of all deaths in 2013, up from 12% in 1990, reports the Global Burden of Cancer 2013.

Breast cancer took the most lives of women, while lung cancer was the biggest cause of deaths in men in India. Apart from cancers of the mouth and throat, the top killers among men in India and the world remained largely the same. Lung cancer – linked with smoking -- was the leading cause cancer deaths among men and women globally, but ranked eighth among Indian women, who have lower smoking rates.

“More cases and deaths in India and the world are in part due to rising populations and ageing, and part due to a combination of lifestyle, environment and genetic factors, but some, like oral cancers, can be directly attributed to cancer use” said Dr G. K. Rath, head, Rotary Cancer Institute, All India Institute of Medical Sciences.


India had the most cancers of the mouth, throat and voice box, with new mouth cancer cases more than doubling between 1990 and 2013, up from 55,480 to 127,168. During this period, breast cancer among women also more than doubled, from 57,374 to 154,261.

Among Indian men, stomach cancer cases in men grew by 33% since 1990, which is the slowest rate of increase. Prostate cancer cases grew the fastest, shooting up by 220%.

New cervical cancer cases in women grew at 0.2% in the same period, while breast cancer had one of the highest increases at 166%.

Prevention, early diagnosis and treatment can prevent many deaths. “Prevention where possible and early detection are crucial as treatment of late stage cancer is often difficult in less developed settings,” said study co-author said Dr Lalit Dandona, professor, Public Health Foundation of India and the University of Washington, Seattle.

Global stats

Globally, prostate cancer cases rose more than threefold among men between 1990 and 2013, with 1.4 million new cases and 293,000 deaths in 2013. Among women, breast cancer remained the leading cancer, with the number of new cases doubled during this period. In 2013, there were 1.8 million new cases of breast cancer and 464,000 deaths.

Other leading causes of increasing new cases include colon and rectum cancers, which have increased 92%, stomach cancer, up 23% since 1990, and liver cancer, with a 70% increase.

“The most effective strategies to address cancer will be tailored to local needs,” said Dr Christopher Murray, director of Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington, which led the international research consortium that did the study. “Country-specific data can drive policies aimed to reduce the impact of cancer now and in the future.”

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