Every hour, cancer kills 50 people in the country while 100 other people are diagnosed with it within the same period, reveals the National Cancer Registry Programme data collected by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR).
This makes cancer the fourth biggest killer disease in India.
Annually, about 440,000 people die of various kinds of cancers in India, while 700,000 to 900,000 are diagnosed with them. At any given moment, there are 2.5 million cancer patients in the country.
The National Cancer Registry Programme data has shown that several parts of India have the world’s highest incidence of cancers of the gall bladder, mouth, and lower pharynx.
Breast cancer has replaced cancer of the cervix as the leading cancer among women in urban India. Lung cancer is the most common cancer in men in the metros such as Kolkata, Mumbai and New Delhi.
Dietary factors play an important role in causing some cancers, with obesity increasing risk of cancers of the breast, uterus, stomach, colon and kidneys, among others.
“Alcohol is proven to cause several cancers such as that of the oesophagus, pharynx, larynx, liver and breast,” Dr Sameer Kaul, senior consultant, surgical oncology, Apollo Hospitals says.
Some viral infections have also been proven to cause some cancers, such as Hepatitis B. Virus to liver cancer and Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) to cancer of the cervix.
“The bacteria Helicobater pylori (H. Pylori) is a cause for gastric cancer, but there is no conclusive evidence that shows that treating the infection early lowers the cancer risk,” Dr Kaul says.
Tobacco use is the single most important risk factor for cancer and causes a large variety of cancer types such as lung, larynx, oesophagus, stomach, bladder, oral cavity and others.
“About 50 per cent deaths from cancer are preventable and caused because of tobacco use,” says Panabaka Lakshmi, minister of state for Health and Family Welfare.
“The central government has enacted a comprehensive tobacco control legislation called ‘The Cigarettes and other Tobacco Products (Prohibition of Advertisement and Regulation of Trade and Commerce, Production, Supply and Distribution) Act, 2003’ to discourage the consumption of tobacco,” Lakshmi adds.