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NEW DELHI : More women than men in India are being diagnosed with cancer, a disease that is likely to strike 1.57 million in 2025 from 1.46 million this year, the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has revealed in its bi-annual report, alarming the Indian health establishment.

These disturbing figures do not include data from two of India’s most populous states—Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. The national average of cancer cases for 2022 is 100.4 per 100,000, with a large number of women (105.4 per 100,000) being diagnosed with breast cancer, a preventible disease. By comparison, 95.6 men per 100,000 have been diagnosed with lung cancer.

The study was carried out at the ICMR’s National Centre for Disease Informatics and Research, Bengaluru. The scientist analyzed National Cancer Registry Programme (NCRP) data for 2020-2022 to evaluate the burden of cancer in India in 2025. The report said that one in nine Indians is likely to develop cancer in their lifetime, by the time they hit their 74th year.

The top cancers in women were breast cancer, which had the highest incidence, followed by cervix, ovary and corpus uteri. Among men, cancers of the lung, mouth and tongue were common—all associated with smoking and other tobacco use.

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The report did not give figures for the incidence of breast, cervix, ovary and uterine cancers in India but Dr Abhishek Shankar, associate professor, Department of Radiation Oncology, All India Institute of Medical Sciences Patna said, “As per modelling data, the projection is that breast cancer cases will reach 250,000 by 2030. Currently, there are approximately 182,000 cases of breast cancer in India."

According to the report, around 763,575 more males are likely to suffer from cancer in 2025, compared to 601,737 in 2015. Among women the number will increase to 806,218 in 2025 from 627,202 in 2015. The report said ICMR data used for the analysis covered around 10% of the population. However, the analysis does not cover populous Uttar Pradesh and Bihar because of unavailability of data, said scientists.

“It is therefore recommended that cancer registration be expanded to include a more representative population in each state of India for more reliable projections and to strengthen cancer control activities. Having cancer as a notifiable disease in the country will improve the coverage and provide a better representation as well," said Prashant Mathur, an ICMR scientist in the report.

“The new estimates are helpful for cancer prevention and control activities through the intervention of early detection, risk reduction and management in India. Appropriate research is, however, needed to delve deeper into the reasons of cancer burden and provide affordable solutions," said the report.

According to Global Cancer Observatory (GLOBOCAN) estimates, there were 19.3 million cancer cases worldwide in 2020. India ranked third after China and the US. GLOBOCAN predicted that cancer cases in India would increase to 2.08 million, a rise of 57.5% in 2040 from 2020.

According to WHO data for 2020, there were 2.3 million women diagnosed with breast cancer and 685,000 deaths globally. At the end of 2020, there were 7.8 million women alive who were diagnosed with breast cancer in the past 5 years, making it the world’s most prevalent cancer.

As per the American Cancer Society, worldwide, female breast cancer has surpassed lung cancer as the most commonly diagnosed cancer, with an estimated 2.3 million new cases (11.7%). Lung cancer remained the leading cause of cancer death.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Priyanka Sharma

Priyanka Shamra is a health and pharma journalist with nearly nine years of field reporting experience. She is a special correspondent with Mint. Her beat includes covering the Ministry of Health and Department of Pharmaceuticals. She also covers the Ministry of Women and Child Development and the Department of Biotechnology.
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