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Number of non-smokers with lung cancer in north India is now same as smokers: New study

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The study by a Delhi hospital also shows an increasing number of cases in younger age groups with no smoking history.

New Delhi: The number of non-smokers with lung cancer in north India is now the same as that of smokers, showed a new study ahead of World Lung Cancer Day.

The research by Delhi’s Sir Ganga Ram Hospital (SGRH), released Tuesday, showed an increasing number of cases in younger age groups with no smoking history. A total of 150 cases of lung cancer were studied between March 2012 and June 2018, and 50 per cent patients were found to be non-smokers. Over 21 per cent patients were below the age of 50.

The alarming trend has once again highlighted the adverse effects of second-hand smoking, mainly due to air pollution, with doctors calling it an ‘impending epidemic’.

The Print had earlier reported the growing trend of this deadly disease among non- smokers and women.

Also read: More Indians are being diagnosed with lung cancer, and it’s not because they’re smoking

“I am personally shocked by an alarming rise in cases, occurrences in younger individuals, non-smokers and women. We have seen patients from most northern states including UP, Bihar, Uttarakhand, Delhi, Punjab and Jammu and Kashmir. In Delhi, even a new born becomes a smoker with her first breath. There is no escape,” Dr. Arvind Kumar, chairman, Centre for Chest Surgery, SGRH, told ThePrint.

Kumar, who has conducted the study, compared it with earlier studies of 1961 and 2003 and said lung cancer is no more a disease of ‘smokers’ or ‘old-age’.

“Decades back, lung cancer cases were attributed to smokers and old age groups which is changing rapidly. In our study, the ratio of smoker to non-smoker was found to be 1:1 as opposed to all earlier reports,” he added.

Of the 150 patients, 31 were women. Around nine were from Delhi, 15 from NCR and rest from different states of north India.

Atul Kumar Jain, 39, a non-smoker, blamed exposure to high pollution for his illness.

“I have a business of electrical goods in Sadar Bazar. With constant chest infections, I went for a normal blood test and eventually the harsh reality of lung cancer at stage 2A hit me in 2017,” Jain told ThePrint.

Jain has spent around Rs 5 lakh for a surgery and undergone six chemotherapy sessions in the last one-and-a-half years. A fresh CT scan showed he is now free of the disease.

Diagnosis was a major area of concern, said the study. Around 10 per cent patients were diagnosed incidentally while 30 per cent were initially misdiagnosed.

“Early detection of lung cancer is a challenge but one shocking fact in our study was that some patients had no symptoms. Thirty per cent patients were misdiagnosed and treated as tuberculosis cases,” said Kumar.

Dr. Shyam Aggarwal, senior consultant, Pulmonology, SGRH, underlined that low-dose CT, a new technique in detecting lung cancer, could be a vital tool in diagnosis of the disease in India.

Also read: A ‘GPS’ will help AIIMS detect, treat lung cancer


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