Is India the New Cancer Capital?

11 Apr 2024
14 mins
Table Of Content
Is India the New Cancer Capital?

    Lately, there has been a buzz around town about India being labeled as the new "cancer capital of the world." This news is spreading like wildfire, making headlines over the past couple of days. But what does it all mean? Is this a new silent pandemic that we have been overlooking?


    Let us dive into this hot topic and unpack what is happening. The notion of India gaining this unfortunate title raises serious questions about our healthcare system and public health priorities. Are we adequately addressing the growing burden of cancer and other non-communicable diseases (NCDs)? Are we taking the necessary steps to prevent and treat these conditions effectively?


    The truth is that the rise in cancer cases in India is indeed alarming. It is not just about the sheer numbers; it is also about the demographic shift, with cancer affecting people at younger ages than before. This trend hints at deeper issues within our society and healthcare infrastructure that need urgent attention.


    What Does the Apollo Hospital's 2024 Annual Report Reveal About India's Health?


    The latest annual report from Apollo Hospitals, titled "Health of Nation," paints a stark picture of India's rising tide of non-communicable diseases (NCDs). These diseases, including cancer, diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular diseases, and mental health problems are on the rise and are significantly impacting the nation's health. It highlights India's growing cancer rates, which are particularly concerning, earning it the title of the "cancer capital of the world" in the report. By 2025, the number is expected to rise from 13.9 lakh cases to 15.7 lakh, marking a 13% increase within just half a decade. 


    Some of the Key findings of the Reports are as follows:

    • Significant rise in cancer cases, with diagnoses occurring at younger ages, under 50 years. At Apollo Hospitals alone, 30% of colon cancer patients are already below the age of 50.
    • Common Cancers: Breast, cervix, and ovary cancers are most common in women, and lung, mouth, and prostate cancers in men.
    • Cancer Screening: Low rates, with only 1.9% of Indian women undergoing breast cancer screening.
    • Obesity: Incidence doubled from 9% in 2016 to 20% in 2023.
    • Hypertension: Incidence increased from 9% in 2016 to 13% in 2023.
    • Diabetes: 10% have uncontrolled diabetes, and 1 in 3 are prediabetic.
    • Pre-diabetes: Prevalent even among individuals under 45 years old.
    • Sleep Apnea: 1 in 4 Indians at risk, with men twice as likely as women.
    • Depression: Increasing prevalence, with 1 in 5 young adults affected.
    • Stress: Reported by 80% of young adults and seniors, increasing hypertension and diabetes risks.


    ICMR's 2025 Projections


    While the above report focuses solely on patients at Apollo Hospital, it is crucial to examine the broader status across India before drawing conclusions. Let us turn to the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) - National Cancer Registry Programme (NCDIR) for a comprehensive perspective. Since 1981, the ICMR-NCDIR has diligently collected data on cancer cases, providing a detailed portrait of the nation's battle with this disease.


    Their latest findings for 2022 are both illuminating and concerning: a staggering 1.46 million new cancer cases were reported, with rates soaring to 100.4 cases per 100,000 people. What's even more alarming is their projection for 2025—a whopping 12.8% increase in cancer cases compared to 2020, aligning with the findings from the Apollo report. This emphasizes the gravity of the situation and underscores the need for comprehensive measures to address the growing cancer burden in India.


    Global Trends vs India: The Cancer Challenge


    What do global trends in cancer reveal? Ever wondered how big the cancer challenge is globally? Well, buckle up! According to the Global Cancer Observatory (GLOBOCAN), 19.3 million new cancer cases emerged worldwide in 2020. Surprisingly, India snagged third, right after China and the USA. But wait, there is more – GLOBOCAN predicts that by 2040, India might see a 57.5% increase in cancer cases, hitting 2.08 million! Startling, isn't it?


    How Can We Reduce the Cancer Burden in India?


    Alright, it is clear that these staggering stats about the rise of cancer in India, along with other non-communicable diseases, are sounding the alarm bells. So, what is the takeaway? What should we do next, and where should India focus its efforts? Now, let us shift gears to the second half of the blog and explore some proactive solutions and actions India can take to tackle this surge in non-communicable diseases.


    Knowing Your Risk Factors


    Understanding the risk factors of non-communicable diseases is crucial for reducing the cancer burden. But how do we achieve that? The increase in cancer cases is driven by factors such as urbanization, an aging population, limited awareness about cancer screenings and unhealthy habits becoming a standard norm. These are further exacerbated by financial constraints among the Indian population. But hey, there is light at the end of the tunnel! Here are a few straightforward steps to address this issue:


    1. Wholesome Diet and Physical Movement

    Did you know that 70% of cancer cases could be prevented simply by improving our diets and staying active? It is a group effort—everyone, from individuals to corporations and healthcare providers, must play a part.


    2. Social Equity

    Addressing social and environmental factors is key. India's fight against cancer is not just about medical care. We need to ensure that everyone, regardless of their location or socioeconomic status, has access to the support they need. That means making healthcare fair and accessible to all.

    But it doesn't stop there. We must also consider our surroundings – like ensuring clean air and safe living conditions. We must strive to create fair and healthy environments for all, regardless of where they live or their socioeconomic status. 


    3. Early detection

    It is about spotting cancer early and getting an accurate picture of its stage. This step is crucial because the sooner we catch it, the better the chances of successful treatment. India's diverse states pose a unique challenge. Still, the government is taking action to improve access to cancer screening and treatment nationwide.


    Here is what our experts recommend:

    • For breast cancer, women between 40 and 74 should consider getting mammograms, especially those between 50 and 69.
    • When it comes to cervical cancer, starting at age 21, women up to age 65 should consider HPV tests, Pap tests, or a combo of both.
    • For colorectal cancer, folks between 45 and 50 to 75 should look into colonoscopies, sigmoidoscopies, or stool tests to catch any signs early on.
    • And for lung cancer, heavy smokers between 50 to 80 should think about getting low-dose CT scans.

    These tests can really make a difference in catching cancer early and certainly reduce the cancer burden in India.


    4. Palliative care

    Now, onto treatment, including palliative care. Here, it is about taking a team approach to treatment, ensuring it is accessible, affordable, and high-quality for everyone. This helps provide comfort and support, especially for those in advanced stages of the disease.


    5. Cultivating Perception

    Spreading awareness about healthier lifestyle choices makes it easier for people to make positive changes.


    Final Thoughts!


    The stats point to one clear message: it's time for action. By taking proactive steps, even small ones, we can transform the cancer landscape in India. Let us ditch the grim title of "cancer capital of India" and aim for a brighter future – a "cancer-free capital India." Roll up your sleeves and focus on areas where resources are scarce! Together, we can ensure that every person in India has the support they need to conquer cancer. Let's end this silent pandemic!

    Written by
    Dr. VijayalakshmiMedical Content Writer
    AboutDr. Vijayalakshmi is a Medical Content Writer at MrMed. She completed her Bachelor of Dentistry (BDS) from Sri Ramakrishna Dental College, Coimbatore, in 2022, where she expertise in dental and clinical research. During her internship, she has also worked on various research projects and presented scientific papers in national UG seminars. Post her UG, she has upskilled in pharmacovigilance regulations and clinical trial methodology through certification courses. She is proficient in researching, writing, editing, and proofreading medical content and blogs.
    Tags :Cancer capital of the worldcancer burden in Indiaburden of non-communicable diseases