Home / News / India /  One in 15 Indians will die of cancer, reveals WHO study

One in every 10 Indians will develop cancer and one in every 15 will die of the disease, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said in a report, highlighting the perils posed by the illness.

According to the study, India, with a population of 1.35 billion, witnessed as many as 1.16 million new cancer cases and 784,800 cancer deaths in 2018. Breast cancer, oral cancer, cervical cancer, lung cancer, stomach cancer and colorectal cancer most common types of cancer in India, which together accounted for 49% of all new cancer cases.

“Cancer patterns in India are dominated by a high burden of tobacco-related head and neck cancers, particularly oral cancer, in men and of cervical cancer in women; both of these cancer types are associated with lower socioeconomic status," the report said.

The burden of cancer types, such as breast cancer and colorectal cancer, associated with overweight and obesity, lower levels of physical activity, and sedentary lifestyles is increasing and these cancer types are associated with higher socioeconomic status, WHO said.

During the past two decades, India has been one of the world's best performing and most stable economies, and this economic development has given rise to vast socioeconomic changes, with an increasing risk of non-communicable diseases, including cancer.

WHO has also warned that the world may witness a 60% increase in cancer cases over the next two decades if the current trend continues. The greatest increase--an estimated 81%--in new cases will occur in low- and middle-income countries where survival rates are currently lowest. This is largely because these countries have had to focus their limited health resources on combating infectious diseases and improving maternal and child health, while health services are not equipped to prevent, diagnose and treat cancers.

“If people have access to primary care and referral systems then cancer can be detected early, treated effectively and cured. Cancer should not be a death sentence for anyone, anywhere," said Ren Minghui, assistant director-general, Universal Health Coverage/ Communicable and Noncommunicable Diseases, WHO.

WHO highlighted a wide range of proven interventions to prevent new cancer cases. These include controlling tobacco use (responsible for 25% of cancer deaths), vaccinating against hepatitis B to prevent liver cancer, eliminating cervical cancer by vaccinating against HPV, screening and treatment, implementing high-impact cancer management interventions that bring value for money and ensuring access to palliative care including pain relief.

“At least 7 million lives could be saved over the next decade, by identifying the most appropriate science for each country situation, by basing strong cancer responses on universal health coverage, and by mobilizing different stakeholders to work together", said Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general, WHO.

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