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Third of India’s cancer cases linked to tobacco use, nearly half in people over 60: ICMR report

ICMR report states that tobacco-linked cancer cases are expected to make up 27.2% of India's total projected cancer cases in 2025.

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New Delhi: As much as a third of the cancer cases reported in India is linked to tobacco use, according to the latest report released by the ICMR-National Centre for Disease Informatics and Research.

Published 24 September, the report puts together data of over seven years from 96 cancer registries of hospitals across India. According to the report, cancers associated with tobacco use comprised 48.7 per cent of all cancers among males and 16.5 per cent among females.

Of all the cases reported in the hospital-based cancer registry in these time period, those associated with tobacco use constituted 33.3 per cent.

A total of 13,32,207 cancer cases were registered from 96 hospitals under the National Cancer Registry Programme (NCRP) during 2012-19. Of these, 6,10,084 cases were included for analysis, based on the completeness and quality of data.

The report states that tobacco contains at least 69 cancer-causing agents. In fact, a recent report on cancer associated with tobacco use in 2021 projected that the number of cancers in the sites associated with tobacco use in 2025 would be 4,27,273 — contributing to 27.2 per cent of India’s total projected cancer cases.

Between 2017-2018, 32.8 per cent of adults between 18-69 years either smoked or consumed smokeless forms of tobacco, and 28 per cent used tobacco daily, according to the National Noncommunicable Disease Monitoring Survey (NNMS).

The report also stated that the average age of initiation of tobacco use was 21 years, which is a contributory factor to the increased burden of cancers associated with tobacco use in India.

However, the highest number of new cases of cancers in sites associated with tobacco use were seen in 60-64 years among both males (16.3 per cent) and females (15.3 per cent). Close to half of such cancers occur after 60 years among males (44.6 per cent) and females (42.7 per cent).

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Other causes of cancer

The report also pointed out that gynaecological cancers, including breast cancer, accounted for over half of all cancers in women.

Childhood cancers, defined as cancers occurring among those below the age of 14, comprised 7.9 per cent of all registered cancers.

Leukaemia, a cancer of blood-forming tissues which hinders the body’s ability to fight infection, accounted for nearly half of all the childhood cancers in this age group — 46.4 per cent in boys and 44.3 per cent in girls.

The other common childhood cancer in boys was lymphoma — this also affects the body’s disease-fighting network — with it accounting for 16.4 per cent of all cancers. Meanwhile, in girls, the second most common childhood cancer was a malignant bone tumour, accounting for nearly 8.9 per cent of all cases.

The report also highlighted that regardless of the clinical extent of the disease, chemotherapy was the most typical treatment for many cancers, including cancers of the liver, gall bladder, stomach, lung and childhood cancers.

Moreover, most cancer patients initiated treatment within eight to 30 days of diagnosis.

Over half of the patients with cancer of the brain and nervous system and about one-third of the patients with lung, prostate, bladder and thyroid cancer with localised disease, diagnosed at the reporting institution, started treatment on the same day.

(Edited by Paramita Ghosh)

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