Checking The Rising Tide of Cancer in India

India has seen an economic boom in the past decade making it the fastest growing economic power in the world except for China. Home to 1.34 billion people, India holds 18% of the world population and will overtake China by the year 2024.

With her economic and population increases, more people are moving from the countryside into the cities. Also, more people are becoming educated than ever before, and there is better healthcare throughout the country.

However, with all this growth comes a hefty price as cancer diagnoses and deaths are on the rise all over India.

Causes of the Cancer Increases in India

 Worldwide cancer is the leading cause of death taking the lives of 7.6 million people in 2008. If the number of deaths by cancer worldwide is a shock than finding out that cancers of all types are killing the people of India in record numbers.

 According to a paper appearing in the Japanese Journal of Clinical Oncology,  life expectancies grow longer and more money is available to the population of India. With these changes, the unhealthy lifestyles of the people are becoming a healthcare burden.

In the low and middle-income families, the most significant increase in non-communicable diseases, such as cancer, are on the rise, and the statistics are staggering.

In 2012, there were 1,014,934 new cancer cases were diagnosed in India in both men and women. Those diagnoses resulted in 682,830 deaths. That is far too many people dying of the top five cancers found in the country breast, cervical, oral, lung and colorectal.

What even makes the above statistics worse, is that many of the cancer-related deaths and even the cancers themselves are preventable.

Increasing Obesity and Cancer in India

The primary prevention method includes controlling the increasing obesity problem in India caused by the lack of exercise many Indians now face due to the urbanization of the country.

Obesity is known globally to be a risk factor that contributes to many diseases, including cancer. Unfortunately, most people remain unaware of this link. Obesity is linked to cancers of the esophagus, thyroid, breast, stomach, and liver. That list includes only a few of the thirteen cancers linked to being obesity.

Doctors in India determine if a patient is obese by measuring their body/mass index (BMI). They do this by using a simple calculation then checking the chart to see where they fit on the obesity scale. If an adult has a BMI of 25-30 they are considered being overweight, between 30-35 they are obese and if their BMI above 35 they are considered severely or morbidly obese.

The body/mass index of the Indian people is on the rise with 5% of her people registering as severely or morbidly obese.

It is crucial doctors in India check their patients for their BMI, especially in light of the ever-growing evidence of the link between obesity and cancer.

Causes for the Increasing Obesity Numbers

 India is growing heavier mainly because of the urbanization of the country. Millions are thronging to the cities looking for the new opportunities that have opened up since India has begun to see economic growth.

With urbanization comes the exposure to fast food plus the ownership and use of automobiles. These same changes are at the heart of the growing obesity problem in India.

People are leaving their traditional foods and activities and opting for processed foods and quicker transportation. However, these changes leave the Indian population open to increased salt and fat intake along with exposure to unhealthy air and lack of exercise.

It is no wonder that the Indian population is getting more obese every year.

To turn the tide of obesity of the Indian people, they need to warn and given incentives to return to a better diet of vegetables and fish or other traditional foods. They also need incentives to use bicycles instead of automobiles and to excerise more.

Only when the people of India select better eating and exercise habits can they stem the tide of not only obesity but cancer as well.

A Leading Cause of Death the Men in India—Oral Cancer

Leading the cancer diagnoses among the men of India is oral cancer resulting in 11.28% of all cancer cases in the country. Oral cancer kills around 52 thousand men each year in India with the mean age of diagnosis being fifty years.

As the population of men in India grows, so do the incidences of oral cancer. This type of the disease affects the lips, structures in the mouth and the tongue. Low-income groups in India are the hardest hit due to increased risk factors such as tobacco chewing and not having adequate diagnostic tools for doctors to use to catch it early enough to save lives.

Although there are most likely several secondary causes for the increasing deaths from oral cancer, the leading cause is the use of tobacco products.

A survey conducted in India in the year 2009 reported that male use of nut-based tobacco products among males is highest in the regions of Madhya Pradesh, Gujaret, Maharashtra, and Delhi. Also, poverty was indicated to increase the risk of using chewing tobacco significantly This recent report exposed a problem that prevails among the poor in India; they lack the vital knowledge that chewing any tabacco product can cause oral cancer.

Unfortunately, many of the people affected by oral cancer rates rising in India are unaware that oral cancer affects a multitude of age groups. Many believe that oral cancer affects only older people, but the pattern of the disease presents quite differently.

The cases of oral cancer found in India have shown a distinct change in the pattern when it comes to the age at which people are affected. While the traditional thoughts on the age of people who get cancer may have once been true, they are not any longer. People of younger age groups between 20-35 years of age are now being diagnosed with oral cancer.

The male population in India must awaken and realize they are at risk of losing their lives if they do not take preventative steps right now.

 The Tobacco Link

There are many things men in India can do to safeguard their health. The number one and perhaps the most significant step is to stop using tobacco products.

Think Change India reported in 2017 that there is one death every six seconds in India from the use of tobacco. The leading tobacco product consumed in India is a product known as Bidis.

Bidis are small, hand-rolled cigarettes made of tobacco and wrapped in a tendu or temburini leaves and manufactured in India.

There is a myth that smoking Bidis are less harmful than smoking traditional cigarettes. However, this is a misconception. Just because they are less expensive and home-grown does not mean they are less likely to harm its consumer.

Bidi cigarettes contain five times the amount of nicotine as traditional cigarettes and contain far more tar and carbon monoxide. Putting it another way, they are more poisonous to the human body than are regular cigarettes.

Since Bidis do not have a chemical added to help them burn, smokers must pull on a bidi cigarette more rigously and more often to keep it from going out. That means that higher levels of poisons enter the lungs of the person smoking them.

That is not to say that smoking regular tobacco cigarretes is better as smoking cigarettes are the leading cause of preventable death in the world.

To stop these needless deaths India’s government has begun a public campaign to warn its people against the danger of smoking. The officials have banned the advertising and of tobacco products to minors and in public places. However, the Indian government remains weak when raising awareness among the adult people of the dangers of smoking.

 Chewing Tobacco and Oral Cancer


Chewing tobacco, also known as smokeless tobacco, has been long-correlated with incidences of oral cancer. Even when not mixed with other ingredients, smokeless tobacco contains around twenty-eight known carcinogens (chemicals believed to cause cancer.)

However, smokeless tobacco is usually mixed other ingredients in India, including betel quid and areca nuts making it even more hazardous to oral health.

So, the people of India, male and female and all ages, must be warned. Tobacco consumed in any form, either smoked or chewed, can be deadly.

Women and Breast Cancer in India

 The cancer deaths in India are not all male.

One woman dies of cervical cancer every 8 minutes in India every day, and for every two women newly diagnosed with breast cancer, one of them will die.

If those statistics did not catch the readers eye, add to them that more women die in India from cervical cancer than in any other country and breast cancer occurs in younger woman than in the west.

Breast cancer is the number one killer of women in India followed closely by cervical cancer.

The reason behind the increasing trend for breast cancer and the deaths are due to lack of awareness and screening.

The increase in deaths in is because breast cancer is striking Indian women and in their youth. Coupled with the fact that breast cancer tends to be more aggressive than in other parts of the world, you have a recipe for disaster.

Lack of screening for breast cancer among the women of India has dramatically lowered their survival rate.

Where in the United States 89% of women survive, only 60% of women in India live more than five years after the onset of treatment.

This lack of understanding of the importance of receiving mammograms and other screenings means that by the time a woman presents to her doctor with symptoms, her cancer has reached stage 3 or beyond and are harder and less successfully treated.

What Can Be Done To End this Healthcare Emergency?   

Although India has begun to pass laws keeping cigarettes out of the hands of minors, more must happen to end the carnage.

Some interventions can help keep India’s men and women from forming and dying from cancer.

These interventions include better management of tobacco products, vaccinations against human papillomavirus, vaccinations against hepatitis B, cervical cancer screenings and screenings for oral and breast cancers.

However, the greatest weapon available to the people of India is knowledge.

People must be made aware of the growing threat to their health coming from the severe lifestyle changes they are confronting them due to India’s growing economic strength on the world scene.

While this growth is terrific, the health consequences it is bringing are not.

The growing health problem does not mean that the progress of India on the world scene needs to end. However, it does mean that India’s people need to have the risks to their health from these changes pointed out to them in  ways they cannot ignore.

Spending some of the money that is coming into the coffers of India on awareness and healthcare services is vital if she is to continue on her course to prosperity. Social and other media campaigns can and will bolster awareness of how obesity is growing in India and the link of obesity to cancer.

Also, some of the new profits of the country must be spent on the training and deployment of more healthcare workers and offer free healthcare and screenings to India’s men and women. New hospitals and clinics must also be erected so that screenings can be performed to catch cancer early and to treat it once it is found.

The Costs of Growth  

The costs of growth need not include the lives of the citizens of India to cancer. There can be no doubt but that the population of India is strong and resilient having proved so through many centuries of remaking themselves when under foreign rule. Managing the adjustment of the lifestyle of the people in India is vital to keep her people strong and for her to become and remain a ruler in the world.

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this post are the personal views of the author. They do not necessarily reflect the views of PatientNextDoor. Any omissions or errors are the author’s and PatientNextDoor does not assume any liability or responsibility for them.

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