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World Cancer Day 2024


World cancer Day is observed every year on 4th of February.

  • The Day aims to save millions of preventable deaths each year through education, raising awareness and pressing governments and individuals across the world to take action against the deadly disease.


GS II: Health

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About Cancer
  2. What is the incidence of cancer In India and world currently?
  3. Steps to prevent cancer
  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 In India and world currently ?

  • Cancer is a major contributor to global mortality. It causes about 1 in every 6 deaths and affecting nearly every household.
  • Cancer is not only catastrophic to individual health and well-being but also a significant challenge for families and societies at large.
  • Globally, there were an estimated 20 million new cases of cancer and 9.7 million deaths from cancer as of 2022.
  • As per the World Health Organisation, the cancer burden will increase by about 77 percent by 2050, further straining health systems, people and communities.
  • Globally, the most common cancers are breast, lung, colon, rectum, and prostate cancer.
  • In 2020, breast cancer was the most prevalent cancer globally, while lung cancer led to the highest number of deaths.
  • According to the Indian Council of Medical Research’s National Cancer Registry Programme (ICMR-NCRP), the estimated number of cervical cancer cases in India in 2023 was more than 3.4 lakh.
    • Doctors emphasised the need to ensure regular checkups for early detection of breast and cervical cancer. They also stress the need for efficacy of the indigenously produced vaccine Cervavac for the treatment of Cervical cancer.

Steps to prevent cancer:

  • It has been proven that up to 50 percent of cancers can be prevented.  Few efficient behaviours to prevent cancer:
    • Refraining from consumption of tobacco and alcohol,
    • Maintaining a healthy lifestyle and
    • Timely vaccinations
  • Although most cancers do not present symptoms in the early stages of the disease, some diagnostic tests (screening techniques) are sensitive enough to detect cancer even when it is invisible.  
  • When detected and treated at an early stage, cancer can often be cured completely.

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: All India Radio

February 2024