Cancer in India• Introduction• Recent times have seen an increase in the incidence of cancer. This is mainly attributed to urbanization, industrialization, lifesty le changes, population growth and increased life span (in turn leading to an increase in the elderly population).
• In India, the life expectancy at birth has steadily risen from 45 years in 1971 to 62 years in 1991, indicating a shift in the demographic profile.1 It is estimated that life expectancy of the Indian population will increase to 70 years by 2021–25.2 This has caused a paradigm shift in the disease pattern from communicable diseases to non-communicable diseases like cancer, diabetes and hypertension.
Burden caused by Cancer• Cancer prevalence in India is estimated to be around 2.5 million, with over 8,00,000 new cases and 5,50,000 deaths occurring each year due to this disease. More than 70% of the cases report for diagnostic and treatment services in the advanced stages of the disease, which has lead to a poor survival and high mortality rate.
• The impact of cancer is far greater than mere numbers. Its diagnosis causes immense emotional trauma and its treatment, a major economical burden, especially in a developing country like India.
• The initial diagnosis of cancer is perceived by many patients as a grave event, with more than one-third of them suffering from anxiety and depression. Cancer is equally distressing for the family as well. It could greatly affect both the family’s daily functioning and economic situation. The economic shock often includes both the loss of income and the increase of expenses because of the treatment and health care. This disease is associated with a lot of fear and despair in the country.
Different cancers occur in different states of our country• Esophageal cancers: Southern states of India like Karnataka and Tamil Nadu and also in Maharashtra and Gujarat.• Stomach cancers: Southern India with the highest incidence in Chennai.
• Oral cancers: Kerala (South India)• Pharyngeal cancers: Mumbai (Western India)• Thyroid cancers among women: Kerala• Gall bladder cancer: Northern India, particularly in Delhi and West Bengal.
Trends in Incidence of Cancer in India• A trend analysis of the data on cancer incidence for the period 1964–96 has demonstrated that the overall occurrence of cancer is increasing with among females. The greatest increase among females was for cancer of the breast and among males for cancer of the prostate.
• There was an increasing trend for lymphoma, urinary bladder, gall bladder and brain tumors in both sexes. Cancer of the colon was increasing in females and that of the kidney in males. Esophageal and stomach cancers were decreasing in both sexes.
Risk Factors• According to epidemiological studies, 80-90% of all cancers are due to environmental factors of which, lifestyle related factors are the most important and preventable.10 The major risk factors for cancer are tobacco, alcohol consumption, infections, dietary habits and behavioral factors.
• Tobacco consumption, either by way of chewing or smoking accounts for 50% of all cancers in men. Dietary practices, reproductive and sexual practices account for 20-30% of cancers.
Cancer Control in India• India is one of the first few developing countries where a nation-wide cancer control programs were launched. Government of India took its first initiative in 1971. The National Cancer Control Program for India was formulated in 1984 with four major goals 13
• Primary prevention of tobacco related cancer• Early detection of the cancers of easily accessible sites• Augmentation of treatment facilities• Establishment of equitable, pain control and palliative care network throughout the country
Cancer Prevention• Avoid tobacco use: As already discussed, tobacco is the major risk factor for cancer. Hence, it is important to avoid tobacco in all forms, like both active and passive smoking and chewing tobacco.• Eat a variety of healthy foods: It is important to consume plant-based foods, rich in fruits and vegetables, reduce the intake of fat and alcohol.
• Stay active and maintain a healthy weight: Regular exercise should be an integral part of one’s daily routine.• Protect yourself from the sun: Exposure to sun is the major cause of skin cancer. It is important to avoid the sun’s ultraviolet rays, especially from 10 am to 4 pm and applying adequate amounts of sunscreen lotion with a sun-protecting factor (SPF) of at least 15, especially before venturing outdoors during these hours
• Get immunized: Vaccination against Hepatitis B should be regularly administered, as this infection could lead to liver cancer.• Healthy practices: Sexually transmitted diseases like human papilloma virus infection, hepatitis B and HIV can lead to an increased incidence of various cancers.
It is thus important to practice safe sex by using condoms, limit the number of sexual partners, or abstain from sex and never share needles. In case of drug addiction, it is important to seek help.• Get screened: Regular screening and self- examination for certain cancers helps in early detection of cancer and improves the prognosis.
Risk factors• The most significant risk factor is age. According to cancer researcher Robert A. Weinberg, "If we lived long enough, sooner or later we all would get cancer• Over a third of cancer deaths worldwide are due to potentially modifiable risk factors. The leading modifiable risk factors worldwide are:
• tobacco smoking, which is strongly associated with lung cancer, mouth, and throat cancer;• drinking alcohol, which is associated with a small increase in oral, esophageal, breast, and other cancers;• a diet low in fruit and vegetables,• physical inactivity, which is associated with increased risk of colon, breast, and possibly other cancers
• obesity, which is associated with colon, breast, endometrial, and possibly other cancers• sexual transmission of human papillomavirus, which causes cervical cancer and some forms of anal cancer.• Men with cancer are twice as likely as women to have a modifiable risk factor for their disease.
• Other lifestyle and environmental factors known to affect cancer risk (either beneficially or detrimentally) include the use of exogenous hormones (e.g., hormone replacement therapy causes breast cancer), exposure to ionizing radiation and ultraviolet radiation, and certain occupational and chemical exposures
• Every year, at least 200,000 people die worldwide from cancer related to their workplace.Millions of workers run the risk of developing cancers such as pleural and peritoneal mesotheliomafrom inhaling asbestos fibers, or leukemia from exposure to benzene at their workplaces.
• Currently, most cancer deaths caused by occupational risk factors occur in the developed world. It is estimated that approximately 20,000 cancer deaths and 40,000 new cases of cancer each year in the U.S. are attributable to occupation
Incidence and mortality• In the United States, cancer is responsible for 25% of all deaths with 30% of these from lung cancer. The most commonly occurring cancer in men is prostate cancer (about 25% of new cases) and in women is breast cancer (also about 25%). Cancer can occur in children and adolescents, but it is uncommon (about 150 cases per million in the U.S.), with leukemia the most common
• In the U.S. cancer is second only to cardiovascular disease as the leading cause of death; in the UK it is the leading cause of death. In many Third World countries cancer incidence (insofar as this can be measured) appears much lower, most likely because of the higher death rates due to infectious disease or injury.
• Cancer is responsible for about 25% of all deaths in the U.S., and is a major public health problem in many parts of the world. The statistics below are estimates for the U.S. in 2008, and may vary substantially in other countries. They exclude basal and squamous cell skin cancers, and carcinoma in situ in locations other than the urinary bladder
Most common cancers in US males, by occurrence
Incidence of a second cancer in survivorsIn the developed world, one in three people willdevelop cancer during their lifetimes. If all cancerpatients survived and cancer occurredrandomly, the normal lifetime odds of developinga second primary cancer (not the first cancerspreading to a new site) would be one innine.However, cancer survivors have an increasedrisk of developing a second primary cancer, andthe odds are about two in nine
• About half of these second primaries can be attributed to the normal one-in-nine risk associated with random chance. The increased risk is believed to be primarily due to the same risk factors that produced the first cancer, such as the persons genetic profile, alcohol and tobacco use, obesity, and environmental exposures, and partly due, in some cases, to the treatment for the first cancer, which might have included mutagenic chemotherapeutic drugs or radiation.
Children• Cancer can also occur in young children and adolescents, but it is rare (about 150 cases per million yearly in the US). Leukemia (usually acute lymphoblastic leukemia) is the most common cancer in children aged 1–14 in the U.S., followed by the central nervous system cancers, neuroblastoma, Wilms tumor, and non-Hodgkins lymphoma.
Infants• The age of peak incidence of cancer in children occurs during the first year of life, in infants. The average annual incidence in the United States, 1975–1995, was 233 per million infants. Several estimates of incidence exist. According to SEER, in the United States:• Neuroblastoma comprised 28% of infant cancer cases and was the most common malignancy among these young children (65 per million infants).
• The leukemias as a group (41 per million infants) represented the next most common type of cancer, comprising 17% of all cases.• Central nervous system malignancies comprised 13% of infant cancer, with an average annual incidence rate of nearly 30 per million infants.• The average annual incidence rates for malignant germ cell and malignant soft tissue tumors were essentially the same at 15 per million infants. Each comprised about 6% of infant cancer.
• Teratoma (a germ cell tumor) often is cited as the most common tumor in this age group, but most teratomas are surgically removed while still benign, hence not necessarily cancer. Prior to the widespread routine use of prenatal ultrasound examinations, the incidence of sacrococcygeal teratomas diagnosed at birth was 25 to 29 per million births.
• Female and male infants have essentially the same overall cancer incidence rates, a notable difference compared to older children.• White infants have higher cancer rates than black infants. Leukemias accounted for a substantial proportion of this difference: the average annual rate for white infants (48.7 per million) was 66% higher than for black infants (29.4 per million).