- World Cancer day falls on February 4 each year
- Tobacco use contributes to huge number of cancer deaths
- A healthy lifestyle can reduce risk of developing cancer
World Cancer Day is observed on 4th February every year to create awareness about cancer. The theme for the year 2020 is 'I am and I will'. Cancer occurs due to the uncontrolled, abnormal growth of cells in the tissue or organ of the body. Cancer can occur at any age and if not detected early and treated, it can be fatal. It is the second leading cause of death globally.
According to Dr Vijay Agarwal, Senior Oncologist in New Delhi, "Lung, breast, cervical and colorectal cancer are some cancers that are most common in India". There has been a rise in the number of cancer cases that are now being reported in India, and health experts believe that poor lifestyle is the primary reason for this rise.
Dr Monica Mahajan, Director of Internal Medicine at Max Healthcare says, "The rising incidence of cancer in India, especially in younger individuals, and also in patients with no significant family history of cancer is a major concern. It is most likely due to exposure to carcinogenic toxins in the air we breathe and the food we eat. Poor lifestyle and change in dietary habits with more intake of processed foods maybe responsible. Smoking, vaping and drugs in the younger age groups maybe a predisposing factor."
Although reports show that the cancer burden in India has increased, this could be because there has been an increased effort from the government and the medical community to raise awareness on the early detection of cancers, and provide more avenues for cancer screening, informs Dr Agarwal. This means that cases "which were earlier going undetected and untreated are now being discovered and recorded," says Dr Agarwal.
Mumbai-based oncologist Dr Tejinder Singh says that the rising number of cancer cases in India is because of increased lifespan. "Life expectancy of people is around 72 years now. As the age expectancy increases, chances of mutation developing repair mechanism becomes weak. This is what puts people at risk of cancer."
Dr Singh also gives the following reasons for increase in number of cancer cases in India:
- Environmental factors like rising air pollution.
- Childbirth after 30 years of age, infertility, lack breastfeeding can increase risk of breast cancer.
- Tobacco consumption and smoking is one of the top causes for increasing cancer cases in India.
- Poor diet and lifestyle.
Giving some tips to reduce your cancer risk, Dr Singh adds, "Avoid consumption of fast food, junk food, processed and packaged food which can lead to obesity. Follow an active lifestyle and exercise regularly."
World Cancer Day 2020: Important facts and figures about cancer
- According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), one-third of deaths from cancer are due to the five leading behavioural and dietary risks: high body mass index, low fruit and vegetable intake, lack of physical activity, tobacco use, and alcohol use
- Tobacco use contributes to a huge number of cancer deaths. It is responsible for approximately 22% of cancer deaths.
- Lung, colorectal, stomach, liver and breast cancers are responsible for most cancer deaths each year.
- Cancer is a result of abnormal growth of cells, this growth can be a contribution of both external factors and inherited genetic factors.
- According to WHO, one in six deaths is due to cancer. Approximately 70% of deaths from cancer occur in low- and middle-income countries. Only 1 in 5 low- and middle-income countries have the necessary data to drive cancer policy.
World Cancer Day 2020: Most common cancers in India
"Lung, breast, cervical and colorectal cancers have different symptoms and need early detection. There has bean a shift in the age group of patients being detected with cancer from under 55 years to under 40 years of age," Dr Agarwal says.
"Breast cancer is the most common type of cancer detected in women in India and cervical cancer is the leading cause of death among women," he informs.
What can be done?
According to Dr Agarwal, tackling cancer should be a two-way process:
1) People must become more conscious of their lifestyle habits
2) They should make good dietary choices.
"Simultaneously, there must be consistent and large-scale efforts to encourage prevention and early detection of cancer through HPV vaccination or regular health check-ups, self-examination for lumps, avoiding excessive exposure to harmful UV rays the sun, and discouraging the sale and use of tobacco products," he says.
(Dr. Vijay Agarwal, Lead and Senior Consultant - Medical Oncology and Haematology at Aster CMI Hospital)
(Dr Tejinder, Consultant, Medical Oncology, Apollo Hospitals, Navi Mumbai)
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