65 per cent of all cancers were either directly or indirectly related to tobacco, say cancer experts

Cancer might become the leading cause of death for non-communicable diseases by 2015 in the country if the current trend of significant increase in different cancers’ continued unabated, two cancer experts Dr. P. Vijay Anand Reddy and Dr. Senthil J. Rajappa have said.

Dr. Reddy, Director of Apollo Cancer Hospital, said the incidence of cancers in the country had doubled in the last two years.

While six lakh new cases were added in 2010, the number of fresh cases was more than 12 lakh in 2012.

There was also a definite change in the pattern of cancer scenario with breast cancer overtaking that of cervix in urban women. There was also a major spurt in the incidence of prostate, colon and stomach cancers in men, while head and neck and lung cancers continue to be the leading ones among them.

Unlike in the past when breast cancer used to be detected in women above 50 years, he said more cases were being seen in young women above 30 years now. Another area of concern was that the tumours appearing in young women were aggressive most of the time and not responding to chemotherapy and hormonal treatment.

Dr. Reddy said there were chances of a relapse in 40-50 per cent cases when the tumours behaved aggressively.

Stressing the need for people to have annual check-ups after the age of 30 years, he said if detected early most of the patients would get cured because of the advances in medical technology.

According to Dr. Senthil J. Rajappa, Senior Consultant and Head of Department, Medical Oncology, Basavatarakam Indo-American Cancer Hospital & Research Institute, growing incidence as well as better reporting system had led to a spurt in cancer cases in the recent years.

He said cancers and other non-communicable diseases were occurring a decade earlier among Indians than their Western counterparts.

Describing the cancers of breast, lung, colon and prostate as lifestyle diseases, he said essentially what was happening in the West 20-25 years ago was happening in India now. Control of tobacco use led to a downtrend in the incidence and mortality in the West, he said.

Dr.Senthil said infectious diseases were currently the leading cause of death in the country, while heart disease was leading in the non-communicable diseases category.

Tobacco, the villain

Pointing out that 65 per cent of all cancers were either directly or indirectly related to tobacco, he called for effective anti-tobacco measures in the country and screening for specific cancers after the age of 40 years.

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