Reducing India’s cancer burden - The Hindu - 14-09-2020

As per the data provided by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR)-National Centre for Disease Informatics and Research (NCDIR) National Cancer Registry Programme Report of August 2020, there are an estimated 13.9 lakh cancer cases in India.

India has witnessed a steady rise in cancer cases over the years. India’s cancer burden has increased by 2.6 times between 1990 to 2016.

Risk reduction:

As per the available data, nearly 50%-60% of cancer cases can be avoided by tackling the known risk factors effectively. Promoting certain behaviour can help reduce such potential risk factors.
Tobacco use is a major avoidable risk factor for the development of cancer in 27% of cancer cases. Other important risk factors include alcohol use, inappropriate diet, low physical activity, obesity, and pollution.
In men, the most common cancers are of the lung, oral cavity, stomach and oesophagus.

Increasing awareness:

There is a need for a multisectoral approach that brings together government, private practitioners and civil society to increase health literacy regarding cancer.
In women, breast, cervix, ovary and gall bladder cancers are the most common forms of cancer. Timely and quality information on the symptoms can help in identifying cancer in its early stages and this will reduce the mortality rates due to cancer substantially.

Strengthening health infrastructure:

The existing health systems need to be strengthened so that there is greater access to screening, early detection, and timely, affordable treatment.

Focussing on cancer research:

Domestic cancer research is of crucial importance to guide our efforts on cancer prevention and control.
Making cancer a notifiable disease could help drive cancer research further by providing greater access to accurate, relevant data that can drive policy decisions.
A notifiable disease is any disease that is required by law to be reported to government authorities. The collation of information allows the authorities to monitor the disease.

Data-driven policies:

There is a need to focus on programmatic and policy solutions for large-scale impact.
Programmatic and policy-level solutions need to be driven by data. The information collected through the National Cancer Registry Programme can be helpful in this direction.

Government efforts:

India is committed to achieving a one-third reduction in cancer-related deaths by 2030 as part of the Sustainable Development Goals.
Given that personal hygiene accounts as a distant driver of cancer, the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan could play a significant role in India’s efforts in reducing the impact of cancer in India.
The FSSAI’s new labelling and display regulations will encourage inter-sectoral and multi-sectoral action against cancer-causing chemicals in food items.
Initiatives such as the National Tobacco Control Programme will help address the major risk factor associated with cancer in Indian men.
The Government of India has been implementing the National Programme for Prevention and Control of Cancer, Diabetes, Cardiovascular Diseases and Stroke (NPCDCS) since 2010 up to District level under the National Health Mission.
The government initiatives like Ayushman Bharat, Swasthya Bharat, Poshan Abhiyaan and Pradhan Mantri Bhartiya Janaushadhi Pariyojana, the National Health Policy focussed on preventive healthcare would play a critical role in India’s efforts against cancer.

Way forward:

Given the socioeconomic impact of cancer, reducing cancer is a prerequisite for addressing social and economic inequity, stimulating economic growth and accelerating sustainable development.
However, apart from investing in cancer treatment, there is also the need to focus on three key aspects: risk reduction, early detection and programmatic and policy solutions.

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