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Cancer in India

Context:

A new report says cancer deaths in the US have declined by a third over the past three decades. This trend is yet to be reflected in India. Even with improvements in treatment, both the incidence of cancer and mortality continue to rise in the country.

Relevance:

GS II: Health

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About Cancer
  2. What is the incidence of cancer and mortality in India currently?
  3. Why are some cancers on the decline and others continue to rise?
  4. Improvement in Cancer treatment

About Cancer

  • Cancer is a widely feared disease that leads to many deaths globally, including in India where more than a million people suffer from it annually.
  • The mechanisms behind the development, treatment and control of cancer have been extensively studied in the field of biology and medicine.
  • In healthy individuals, cell growth and differentiation are tightly controlled, but in cancer, these regulatory mechanisms break down.
  • Normal cells have a property called contact inhibition, which prevents them from growing uncontrollably when in contact with other cells.
  • However, cancer cells appear to lose this property, leading to the uncontrolled growth and division of cells, resulting in tumors.
Types of Tumors
  • Tumors are of two types:
    • Benign 
    • Malignant
  • Benign tumors normally remain confined to their original location and do not spread to other parts of the body and cause little damage.
  • The malignant tumors, on the other hand are a mass of proliferating cells called neoplastic or tumor cells. These cells grow very rapidly, invading and damaging the surrounding normal tissues.
Causes of Cancer
  • Cancer is caused by the transformation of normal cells into cancerous neoplastic cells. This transformation can be triggered by physical, chemical or biological agents called carcinogens.
  • These agents include ionizing radiations such as X-rays and gamma rays, non-ionizing radiations such as UV rays, and chemical carcinogens found in tobacco smoke.
  • Cancer-causing viruses, known as oncogenic viruses, also have genes called viral oncogenes that can contribute to the development of cancer.
  • Additionally, certain genes called cellular oncogenes or proto oncogenes in normal cells can be activated under certain conditions, resulting in the oncogenic transformation of cells.

What is the incidence of cancer and mortality in India currently?

  • An estimated 14.6 lakh new cancer cases were detected in 2022, up from 14.2 lakh in 2021 and 13.9 lakh in 2020, as per data from the National Cancer Registry of the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) presented in Parliament.
  • Deaths due to cancer increased to an estimated 8.08 lakh in 2022 from 7.9 lakh in 2021 and 7.7 lakh in 2020. The incidence of all cancers is estimated to increase to 15.7 lakh by 2025, according to the data.
  • One in nine Indians will develop cancer during their lifetime, according to an ICMR study using data from population-based cancer registries.
  • One in 68 men will develop lung cancer and one in 29 women will develop breast cancer, according to the study.
  • The incidence of cancer is higher among women — 103.6 per 100,000 in 2020 compared to 94.1 among men. Among men, the most common cancers were of the lung, mouth, prostate, tongue, and stomach; for women, they were breast, cervix, ovary, uterus, lung.

Why are some cancers on the decline and others continue to rise?

  • The incidence of cervical cancer in India has decreased in the last 50 years from 45 to 10 per 100,000 population, while the incidence of breast cancer has risen, particularly in urban areas.
  • This can be attributed to factors such as later marriages, having fewer children, better hygiene and vaccination for cervical cancer, and later age of marriage, having the first child at a later age, not breastfeeding, and a high protein diet for breast cancer.
  • Unlike cervical cancer, which can be prevented with HPV vaccination, there is currently no specific intervention for breast cancer other than screening.
  • Additionally, the incidence of tobacco-related cancers such as oral and oesophageal cancer is decreasing due to laws that have reduced smoking in public places.
  • However, lung cancer remains a concern and is caused not only by smoking but also factors such as indoor fires and air pollution. The survival rate for lung cancer is low and it is often diagnosed in late stages.

Improvement in Cancer treatment

  • The success rate for treating various types of cancer is increasing.
  • For example, the cure rate for pancreatic cancer has doubled from 3% 50 years ago to 6%. Similarly, the cure rate for prostate cancer has gone from 60% to 100% and for breast cancer it has improved from 50% to 90% with newer treatments.
  • However, to further reduce mortality, early diagnosis and prompt treatment are crucial.

-Source: Indian Express


February 2023
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