India ‘cancer capital of the world’, sees fastest rise in cases worldwide, says report

The median age for cancer diagnosis in India is lower compared to other countries, yet the cancer screening rates remain ‘very low’, as per the Health of Nation report

Livemint, Written By Jocelyn Fernandes
Updated8 Apr 2024
Most common cancers in order of occurrence among women in India are breast cancer, cervix cancer and ovarian cancer
Most common cancers in order of occurrence among women in India are breast cancer, cervix cancer and ovarian cancer

A recent report on India's health landscape unveiled alarming trends in non-communicable diseases (NCDs), with cancer cases skyrocketing across the country, as per a PTI report.

The 4th edition of Apollo Hospitals’ Health of Nation Report, released on World Health Day 2024, dubbed India the "cancer capital of the world".

According to the report, one in three Indians is pre-diabetic, two in three are pre-hypertensive, and one in 10 suffers from depression. The prevalence of NCDs such as cancer, diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular diseases, and mental health disorders has reached critical levels, significantly impacting the nation's health.

India: The New "Cancer Capital"

Of particular concern is the surge in cancer cases, surpassing global rates and earning India the title of the "cancer capital of the world." The report warns of a potential healthcare crisis as conditions like pre-diabetes, pre-hypertension, and mental health disorders manifest at younger ages.

The most common cancers in order of occurrence in India are breast cancer, cervix cancer and ovarian cancer among women. For men, the most common cases are instances of lung cancer, mouth cancer and prostate cancer.

Notably, the median age for cancer diagnosis in India is lower than in other countries, but despite this, cancer screening rates in the country still remain very low, the release stated.

Key Findings of the Report

  • The report revealed a significant increase in obesity, hypertension, and the risk of obstructive sleep apnea among Indians. 
  • Obesity rates surged from 9 percent in 2016 to 20 percent in 2023. 
  • Hypertension cases have increased from 9 percent to 13 percent during the same period. 
  • A high proportion of Indians were also at risk for Obstructive Sleep Apnea.

Urgent Need for Health Screenings, Unified Action Needed

Highlighting the importance of regular health screenings, the report emphasises their role in reducing the risk of cardiac-related ailments by monitoring blood pressure and body mass index levels. While there is a growing awareness of the importance of health checks, there remains a need to expand their reach across India.

Dr Preetha Reddy, Vice Chairperson of Apollo Hospitals, stressed the importance of addressing NCDs collectively. She underscored the need for nationwide efforts to combat these diseases effectively through education and personalised preventive healthcare solutions.

"We strongly believe that the healthcare ecosystem and the nation need to come together and have a unified outlook so that we can combat NCDs in the truest sense. The findings demonstrated a significant need for immediate interventions to fight, prevent and reverse the growing epidemic of cancer, diabetes, hypertension and obesity among others. The need to educate the public and create individualised preventive healthcare solutions has never been greater," Dr Reddy said.

She endorsed prioritising investments in health infrastructure, promoting preventive healthcare measures, and addressing health inequities, to make way for sustainable development in the health sector.

Dr Madhu Sasidhar, President & CEO of Apollo Hospitals, highlighted the necessity of innovation in preventive healthcare and improved accessibility. He emphasised leveraging technology to enhance disease prevention, diagnosis accuracy, and patient-centric treatment methodologies.

(With inputs from PTI)

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