One in eight men and one in nine women in India will develop some form of cancer in their lifetime, latest government data reveals, pointing to a health crisis in the country where medical costs are rising sharply.
India will see an estimated 1.45 million new cancer cases in 2016 alone, killing 736,000 of the patients as barely 12.5% of those suffering from the condition get diagnosed early, says the national cancer registry data released Wednesday.
“The numbers are going up alarmingly and if we don’t want the situation to turn epidemic, we must act now,” said Dr GK Rath, chief of the Cancer Centre at New Delhi’s All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS).
There has been a jump of 350,000 first-time cancer cases since 2011, when the records were last updated. The crisis only seems to worsen.
By 2020, the cancer figures are expected to go up to 1.73 million cases in a year, proving right the warning that dreaded disease will top the list of non-communicable illnesses plaguing India in the coming years.
Mouth and lung are the most common cancers found in men. Women mostly suffer from breast and cervix cancers. The highest incidence among men has been reported from Mizoram’s Aizwal district while Papumpare district of Arunachal Pradesh has the highest rate of cancer among women.
Almost 60% of the cancers are preventable, say experts.
“Of this 60%, 40% are due to tobacco use and the remaining 20% due to infections,” said Dr PK Julka, former head of radiation oncology department at AIIMS. “The risk of developing cancer can be reduced by discontinuing tobacco use, getting vaccinated and maintaining a healthy lifestyle.”
The rise in numbers is also attributed to people living longer, greater awareness about the disease and improved diagnostic techniques.
Indian Council of Medical Research director-general Dr Soumya Swaminathan, who released the data, said the information was updated every two-three years after the longitudinal registry began in early 1980s. “Since then (it) has been helpful in making projections that eventually help to strengthen our cancer screening and treatment programme.”