1 in 15 Indians die of cancer, says WHO report
The WHO report highlights that a person’s socioeconomic status is likely to influence cancer patterns. With men and women belonging to low socioeconomic status, it is oral cancer and cervical cancer respectively, that dominates.
A new report states that one in 10 Indians will develop cancer during their lifetimes, and one in 15 Indians will die of cancer. Among men, oral cancer is the most common type of cancer and among women, it is breast cancer.
Focused on cancer research and prevention, the ‘World Cancer Report’ was released by the World Health Organisation (WHO) on 4th February 2020 -- marked as World Cancer Day every year. The report states that of India’s 135 crore (1.35 billion) population, an estimated 11.6 lakh new cancer cases were diagnosed in 2018. Additionally, there were 7,84,800 deaths due to cancer, and 22.6 lakh 5-year prevalent cases.
The most common types of cancers
The six most common types of cancers are breast cancer (1,62,500 cases), oral cancer (1,20,000 cases), cervical cancer (97,000 cases), lung cancer (68,000 cases), stomach cancer (57,000 cases) and colorectal cancer (57,000 cases). These account for 49% of all new cancer cases.
Your socioeconomic status influences what type of cancer is likely to affect you
Cancer prevention aims to reduce the burden of cancer by decreasing the frequency of new cases of cancer, by avoiding or reducing exposure to cancer risk factors and by detecting and treating lesions through screening programmes linked with diagnosis and treatment. Socioeconomic factors play a major role in determining the exposure of an individual and a population to cancer risk factors.
Socioeconomic factors such as education level, income, occupation, and standard of living determine the social standing of an individual or a population in terms of low, middle, and high socioeconomic status. Between 1998 and 2018, India was one of the world’s best-performing economies growing by over seven per cent annually. But this economic development has not been equal across groups of varying incomes.
With the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer, this disparity has paved the way for an increased risk of noncommunicable diseases, including cancer and inadequate access to cancer prevention and control services.
There are currently 16.4 crore users of smokeless tobacco, 6.9 crore smokers, and 4.2 crore smokers and chewers in India. More than 90% of patients with oral cancer have low or low- er-middle socioeconomic status.
With people belonging to the lower socioeconomic strata, cancer patterns in India are dominated by a high burden of tobacco-related head and neck cancers, particularly oral cancer in men and cervical cancer in women.
On the contrary, when it comes to Indians in the higher socioeconomic status, the burden of cancer types associated with a lavish lifestyle, obesity, and lower levels of physical activity are breast cancer and colorectal cancer.
What affects men the most?
There were 5,70,000 new cancer cases in men in 2018. Of this, oral cancer (92,000 cases), lung cancer (49,000 cases), stomach cancer (39,000 cases), colorectal cancer (37,000 cases), and esophageal cancer (34,000 cases) accounted for 45% of all cases.
What cancer affects women the most?
Of the 5,87,000 new cancer cases in women in 2018, breast cancer (1,62,500 cases), cervical cancer (97,000 cases), ovarian cancer (36,000 cases), oral cancer (28,000 cases) and colorectal cancer (20,000 cases) account for 60% of all cases.
Low socioeconomic status is a major risk factor for cervical cancer: India accounts for about one fifth of the global burden of cervical cancer, despite decreasing incidence rates in several regions of the country. Cervical cancer disproportionately affects women with lower socioeconomic status, who are at a considerable disadvantage in the availability of and access to public health services for prevention and early detection and therefore this is an equity issue.
What are the warning signs for cancer?
According to the National Institute of Cancer Prevention and Research, here are the symptoms that you should be aware of:
A change in bowel or bladder habits.
A sore or wound that does not heal.
Unusual discharge or bleeding from any opening in the body.
Unexplained weight loss or loss of appetite.
Difficulty in swallowing or long-standing indigestion.
Lump or lumps anywhere in the body.
A nagging cough or persistent hoarseness in the voice.
In the years ahead, the focus needs to be on health literacy, awareness, and behaviour change, addressing the socioeconomic determinants that influence these factors for faster cancer prevention rates in India.