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Cancer cases growing at an alarming pace: WHO

According to IARC, in 2012, the worldwide burden of cancer rose to an estimated 14 million per year.

Durgesh Nandan Jha, Times of India, Feb 4, 2014

NEW DELHI: Effective prevention measures are the only way to prevent cancer crisis, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) stated on Monday. The agency, which is part of the World Health Organization, also shed light on the alarming pace at which cancer cases are growing.

According to IARC, in 2012, the worldwide burden of cancer rose to an estimated 14 million-a figure expected to rise to 22 million annually within the next two decades. Over the same period, cancer deaths are predicted to rise from an estimated 8.2 million to 13 million per year.

"Globally, the most common cancers diagnosed were those of the lung (13.0% of the total), breast (11.9%), and large intestine (9.7%). The most common causes of cancer death were cancers of the lung (19.4% of the total), liver (9.1%), and stomach (8.8%)," the IARC said in a statement.

WHO experts say burden of infection-related cancers (including those of the cervix, liver, and stomach) and those associated with industrialized lifestyles (such as those of the lung, breast, and large intestine) is higher in developing countries like India. "The implementation of effective vaccination against hepatitis B virus and human papillomavirus can markedly reduce cancer of the liver and cervix, respectively. Curbing tobacco use is crucial for cancer control," said Dr Christopher Wild, director of IARC.

"We see almost 100 cancer patients each day. Ten years ago, we used to get 10-15 cancer patients daily. Now, the number has gone up to over 100. The age pattern has changed too. We are getting a lot of breast cancer patients aged between 35-40 years while earlier the average age of such patients was 50-60 years," said Dr Meenu Walia, director oncology at Max hospital, Patparganj.

More than 11 lakh people get diagnosed with cancer every year in India and around 5.5 lakh people die due to the disease, said Dr P K Julka, head of the clinical oncology department at AIIMS. He said about 5.5 lakh patients die due to the disease which is the second biggest cause of death in the country after heart disease.

Obesity is the most important known avoidable cause of cancer after tobacco, said Dr A K Dewan, medical director, Rajiv Gandhi Cancer Institute & Research Center. Newer causes like exposure to electromagnetic waves, insecticides, pesticides and immunosuppressives are under investigation, said Dr R Ranga Rao, director of medical oncology at BLK Super Specialty Hospital.

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