While the actual incidence has gone up, it is almost entirely because of a change in the age structure of our population. People are living longer and that’s why diseases that affect relatively older people, for example cancer, show a greater prevalence.
According to a study published in The Lancet, incidence of cancer, except for cervical cancer, is much lower in India, excluding Mizoram, than that in countries that can be said to be in a similar epidemiological transition as our country, for example Brazil, Russia, China and South Africa. Sadly, mortality rates due to cancer remain high that could be reflective of poor access to early detection and curative services and the lack of affordability.
Leading cancer type in 2016 was stomach cancer
At present, doctors say survival rate for most cancers stagnates at 20% to 30% because a majority of the patients come to them when the disease is already in the advanced or III and IV stages. “If cancer is detected early, 80% patients can be cured of the disease,” Dr GK Rath, chief of AIIMS cancer centre, told TOI. T
The leading types of cancer in India 2016, as per the study, among both sexes were stomach cancer (9%), breast cancer (8.2%), lung cancer (7.5%), lip and oral cavity cancer (7.2%), pharynx cancer other than nasopharynx (6.8%), colon and rectum cancer (5.8%), leukaemia (5.2%) and cervical cancer (5.2%). Over the 26-year period, researchers said, the age-standardised rate of breast cancer in women has increased by 39.1%, with increase observed in every state. The age-standardised rate of cervical cancer, on the other hand, has decreased substantially by 39.7% in India from 1990 to 2016.
Professor Rajesh Dikshit of Tata Memorial Centre, Mumbai, said rising abdominal obesity, late age of child bearing, high use of oral contraceptives and genetic susceptibility are key reasons for higher incidence of breast cancer. “Cervical cancers cases are declining due to improvement in genital hygiene,” he added.
Lung cancer has been identified as the second most common cause of cancer among men in 2016, affecting 67,000 people. Tobacco use and air pollution were the leading risk factors for lung cancer-related morbidity and mortality.
Commenting on Lancet’s fndings on non-communicable diseases in India, Dr Balram Bhargava, director general of ICMR, said they emphasised the “need for prevention and management of major NCDs to receive as much policy attention as redu ction of still high burden of communicable and childhood diseases.”
He added that the government’s plans of establishing 1.5 lakh health and wellness centres across India to provide comprehensive primary healthcare services would help deal with NCDs and injuries along with communicable diseases, as part of the Ayushman Bharat scheme.