Gadchiroli in Maharashtra records highest rate of oral cancer in India
It found that the incidence rate of oral cancer in Gadchiroli was 12 cases per one lakh population in women and 20 cases per one lakh in men in the year 2015-16, which was the highest in the country
A first-of-its-kind cancer registry has found that the district of Gadchiroli in Maharashtra reports over 600 cases of cancer every year, of which 28% is oral cancer. According to the Population-Based Cancer Registry (PBCR), in 2015-16, Gadchiroli recorded the highest incidence of oral cancer cases in the country.
The PBCR aims to understand the epidemiology of cancer in a tribal population, living in Gadchiroli, one of the most backward regions of India.
The study is a joint initiative by Tata Memorial Hospital (TMH) and Dr Abhay Bang’s Society for Education, Action and Research in Community Health (SEARCH).
It found that the incidence rate of oral cancer in Gadchiroli was 12 cases per one lakh population in women and 20 cases per one lakh in men in the year 2015-16, which was the highest in the country. The district reports over 600 cases of cancer every year with 40% of all cancers in men and 20% among women identified as oral cancers. Nationally, the prevalence of oral cancer is about 10-12% of all cancer cases.
“Oral cancer was the second leading cancer among women after cervical cancer, which is highly unexpected. Fifty per cent of cancers among males and 30% among females were tobacco-related,” said Dr Yogesh Kalkonde, co-principal investigator and rural chronic non-communicable diseases in-charge for SEARCH.
Dr Kalkonde said they conducted a house-to-house survey to screen cancer cases and causes of death, and collected cancer prevalence data through hospitals in and around Gadchiroli to create the PBCR. The PBCR was initiated after a SEARCH study found that 50.4% of Gadchiroli’s population were tobacco users.
Researchers said if tobacco habits of people can be curbed, the rate of incidence of all cancers can be brought down by 50%.
The International Agency for Research on Cancer lists tobacco and betel nut as carcinogens.
Dr Abhay Bang, director of SEARCH, said tobacco has emerged as a key public health problem in Gadchiroli.
“The major cause of worry is a mixture of tobacco and flavoured betel nuts known as kharra or mawa consumed by women, men and children alike. While in urban or rural population, we have televisions, newspapers or the internet to create awareness about tobacco-related cancers, even pictorial warnings don’t do any good in tribal areas,” said Dr Pankaj Chaturvedi, head, head and neck cancer division, TMH.
Dr Kalkonde said, “Ironically, the people are aware that tobacco causes cancer, but we found mothers giving kharra or mawa to children to stop them from crying, so the dependency starts at a very early age.”