India reported 1.41 million new cancer cases in 2022

News Excerpt: 

According to the World Health Organization's (WHO) latest global cancer burden estimates released on February 1, 2024, the number of new cancer cases rose by 20 million in 2022.

The global cancer burden estimates:

  • According to WHO, globally, lung cancer was the most commonly occurring, with 2.5 million new cases or 12.4 per cent.
    • Female breast cancer ranked second (2.3 million cases, 11.6 per cent), followed by colorectal cancer (1.9 million cases, 9.6 per cent), prostate cancer (1.5 million cases, 7.3 per cent) and stomach cancer (970,000 cases, 4.9 per cent).
  • Further, about 9.7 million global deaths due to cancer were reported in 2022, with 916,827 cancer deaths reported in India alone in 2022. 
    • The estimates included the deaths of 4.7 lakhs men and 4.5 lakhs women in the country.

  • The IARC also found that about one in five people develop cancer in their lifetime, killing one in nine men and one in  twelve women.
  • In Asia, tobacco usage contributed to lung cancer emerging as the most common type of cancer. 
  • In India, lip, oral cavity, lung and oesophagus cancer were the four leading types of cancer for men. 
  • For women, it was breast, cervix, uterine cancer and ovarian cancer.

India’s cancer burden

  • India reported 1.41 million new cases, with a higher proportion of female patients — 6.9 lakh men and 7 lakh women.
  • Breast cancer had the highest proportion in the country, with 1.9 lakh  new cases, accounting for 13.6 percent of all patients and over 26 per cent in women. 
    • The approximation reflected the global estimates that ranked female breast cancer as the second highest reported, with 2.3 million cases worldwide.
  • In India, breast cancer was followed by 
    • lip and oral cavity (143,759 new cases, 10.2 per cent), 
    • cervix and uterine (127,526 new cases, 9 per cent), 
    • lung (81,748, 5.8 per cent),
    • oesophagal cancers (70,637 new cases, 5.5 per cent). 

According to the deputy head of the cancer surveillance branch at IARC, women in lower Human Development Index (HDI) countries are 50 per cent less likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer than women in high HDI countries, yet they are at a much higher risk of dying of the disease due to late diagnosis and inadequate access to quality treatment,” Dr Isabelle Soerjomataram, deputy head of the cancer surveillance branch at IARC.

Head of the Cancer Surveillance Branch at IARC, The impact of this increase will not be felt evenly across countries of different HDI levels. Those who have the fewest resources to manage their cancer burdens will bear the brunt of the global cancer burden.

A recent study assessing the cancer burden in Asia

  • A recent study assessing the cancer burden in Asia published in The Lancet Regional Health, found that India alone accounted for 32.9 percent of global deaths and 28.1 percent of new cases of lip and oral cavity cancer in 2019. 
    • This was on account of the widespread consumption of smokeless tobacco (SMT) such as khaini, gutkha, betel quid and paan masala in South Asian countries like India, Bangladesh and Nepal. Worldwide, SMT is responsible for 50 per cent of the oral cancer burden.
    • In the absence of enforcing SMT control policies, such as imposing taxes or implementing regulatory mechanisms, it could increase the risk of not just oral cancer but also esophageal and pancreatic cancer, the study warned.

International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) observation

  • IARC estimated that cervical cancer is the most common form of cancer in women in 25 countries, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa. 
    • Globally, cervical cancer accounted for 6.6 laks new cases and 3.5 lakhs deaths in 2022.
  • According to a study published last year in The Lancet, India accounted for 40 percent of deaths that occurred due to cervical cancer globally, equivalent to one in five cervical cancer cases being reported in the country.
  • In India, cervical cancer’s five-year survival rate was 51.7 percent. 
    • However, survival rates in India are lower compared to high-income countries such as the United States, whose five-year survival rate for cervical cancer was 66.7 between 2012 and 2015, another Lancet study said.
  • The IARC also projected that the cancer burden in 2050 will increase by 77 per cent from the 20 million cases reported in 2022 and reach 35 million new cases. 
    • The rapid rise in the cancer burden is owing to multiple risk factors such as tobacco, alcohol, obesity, and air pollution. 
    • The vulnerability of these risk factors is influenced by socioeconomic development, which determines exposure.
  • Countries with the highest HDI are expected to have an additional 4.8 million new cases predicted in 2050 compared to the figures reported in 2022, the IARC said. 
    • High exposure to risk factors such as smoking, poor diet, obesity and a lack of exercise causes a higher incidence of certain cancers in developed countries. 
    • However, the burden is rising in developing countries as well, a study in the journal Annals of Oncology pointed out.
  • WHO stated, the proportional increase in incidence is most striking in low HDI countries (142 percent increase) and medium HDI countries (99 percent). Likewise, cancer mortality in these countries is projected to almost double in 2050.

Challenges of Cancer Care

  • Limited access to quality cancer care: Particularly in rural and underserved areas.
  • Lack of awareness about cancer: Many people are unaware of the risk factors and symptoms of cancer, leading to late diagnosis.
  • Stigma associated with cancer: Can prevent people from seeking timely diagnosis and treatment.

Government Initiatives:

  • The interim budget 2024-25 announced by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on February 1, 2024 encouraged the vaccination of girls aged 9-14 years to prevent cervical cancer. 
    • On the heels of the announcement, the WHO study said that cervical cancer was the eighth most commonly occurring one globally.
  • National Tobacco Control Programme (NTCP): Aims to reduce tobacco use, a major risk factor for various cancers.
  • Vaccination against HPV: The government has introduced HPV vaccination for girls aged 9-14 years to prevent cervical cancer.
  • Cancer awareness campaigns: Regular campaigns are conducted to raise awareness about risk factors, symptoms, and early detection of cancer.
  • National Cancer Screening Programme: Offers free screening for breast, oral, and cervical cancer in high-risk groups.
  • Mobile cancer screening camps: Organize regular camps in rural and underserved areas to provide access to screening services.
  • Telemedicine consultations: Enable access to specialist consultations for early diagnosis and management.
  • Ayushman Bharat Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana (AB-PMJAY): Provides health insurance cover up to Rs. 5 lakhs per family per year for secondary and tertiary care hospitalization, including cancer treatment.

Way Forward:

  • Increasing investment in cancer prevention and early detection programs.
  • Expanding access to quality cancer treatment facilities and specialists.
  • Raising awareness about cancer and reducing stigma.
  • Promoting research on new and effective cancer treatments.

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