India has one of the highest cancer rates in the world
Every single person I know has a loved one (either spouse, mother, father, mother-in-law, father- in-law, sister, brother, or brother-in-law, nephew, niece) who has cancer. Its frightening. How did I discover this strange phenomena? When my mother-in-law was diagnosed with breast cancer last week. I have had an uncle who passed away from liver cancer, and my husband’s aunt and sister-in-law have also passed away because of cancer. Still, I didn’t think cancer was that common. But when my mother-in-law was diagnosed, I told a few people about it, and each and every one of them told me their stories…I talked to more people. All had a sad tale to relate.
I always knew that heart disease, diabetes and AIDS were common (and spreading) in India. India has one of the highest rates of coronary heart disease in the world, and diabetes rate is increasing dramatically amongst the affluent section of our population. As for AIDS, we are soon to get the dubious distinction of harbouring the highest number of those suffering from HIV/AIDS, if we don’t already.
Where cancer was concerned, I knew that a large proportion of our rural and semi-urban population eat tobacco and therefore our rates of oral cancer are one of the highest in the world. What I did not think was that India had an overall high cancer rate…until now. I was seeing and hearing it all around me and so I thought I would do a little research. I found that old data said that cancer was not that common in India. According to these statistics (WHO):
Cancer rates in India are considerably lower than those in more developed countries such as the United States…data from population based cancer registries in India show that the most frequently reported cancer sites in males are lung, oesophagus, stomach, and larynx. In females, cancers of the cervix, breast, ovary, and oesophagus are the most commonly encountered…
Where breast cancer was concerned I found this information:
In India, the incidence of breast cancer is increasing, with an estimated 80,000 new cases diagnosed annually. The incidence of breast cancer increased by approximately 50% between 1965 and 1985. Much of this increase may be associated with greater urbanization and improved life expectancy…
But then, 2005 data shows that India has one of the highest cancer rates in the world!! This article which quotes research funded by WHO says:
The survey included more than 200 000 patients with histopathologically confirmed cancers…it indicates that the age adjusted incidence of gall bladder cancer in women in New Delhi is 10.6 per 100 000 of the population – the world’s highest rate for women for this cancer…Districts in central, south, and northeast India had the world’s highest incidence of cancers associated with tobacco, which is chewed as well as smoked in India…Aizawl district in the northeastern state of Mizoram has the world’s highest incidence of cancers in men of the lower pharynx (11.5 per 100000 people) and tongue (7.6 per 100 000 people). The district also has the country’s highest rate of stomach cancer among men. Wardha has the highest incidence of mouth cancer in the world. The incidence of mouth cancer among men in Pondicherry was 8.9 per 100 000, one of the highest rates in the world for men. Rates of stomach cancer were high among men in Bangalore and Chennai…the survey also detected a “belt of thyroid cancer” in women in coastal districts of Kerala, Karnataka, and Goa… the survey also confirmed earlier observations that breast cancer has replaced cervical cancer as the leading site of cancer among women in Indian cities and that lung cancer is the most common cancer in men in Calcutta, Mumbai,and New Delhi.
This was scary. Whats wrong with India? Whats wrong with our lifestyle and with our diet that we are suffering like this? True, we don’t exercise much, and we eat a lot of fatty food. At one time because of more poverty, people were forced to walk long distances, and consume a simple diet. And people were wiry, and thin. Perhaps that is why people still feel that being plump is a sign of good health and prosperity. Eating fried foods and not exercising has always been considered desirable. Desi ghee (clarified butter), dried fruits, pakodas (stuffed and fried lentil dish) …have it all for that was needed for health! But aspiring for it is one thing, actually eating like that on a regular basis is a recipe for disaster. A paunch is not a a sign of prosperity, but a sign of ill health. But unfortunately, this feeling is still not that common. My mother-in-law still urges me to eat desi ghee and drink full cream milk because she firmly believes its good for health. She has been diagnosed with breast cancer, and has had surgery, but she continues to eat this, sure that this is “good” food.
As if these high rates of disease in our country aren’t enough, India has a poor public health care system, medical insurance is unaffordable for even the middle classes (for serious diseases), and most employers pay limited medical bills. A small miniscule of our population can afford good medical care.
I’ve realised one thing. No one is going to take care of us…by that I mean the average Indian. We have to pull up our socks. Exercise and eat right. Or be prepared for the worst.
From the Kidwai Memorial Institute of Oncology: The estimated number of new cancers in India per year is about 7 lakhs and over 3.5 lakhs people die of cancer each year. Out of these 7 lakhs new cancers about 2.3 lakhs (33%) cancers are tobacco related.
From a TOI article dated 28the March 2012: India officially recorded over half a million deaths due to cancer in 2011 – 5.35 lakhs as against 5.14 lakh (2009) and 5.24 lakh (2010). UP recorded 89,224 deaths due to cancer, while Maharashtra saw 50,989 fatalities. The Union health ministry says there are about 28 lakh cases of cancer at any given point of time in India, with 10 lakh new cases being reported annually. World Health Organization (WHO) says, the estimated cancer deaths in India are projected to increase to 7 lakh by 2015.
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