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Worrying rise in cancer among young

Worrying rise in cancer among young

One in five of the cancer cases in the country are being detected in men and women below the age of 40, and around 60% of the patients are men.

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Last Updated : 28 May 2024, 21:37 IST
Last Updated : 28 May 2024, 21:37 IST
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Some recent reports about the incidence of cancer in India should cause concern as they show the weakness of the country’s health programmes, particularly with regard to cancer management strategies. A study by the non-profit Cancer Mukt Foundation (CMF) has shown that there is an increase in the incidence of cancer among younger persons. As many as 20% of cancer patients seeking a second opinion via its helpline were under 40. One in five of the cancer cases in the country are being detected in men and women below the age of 40, and around 60% of the patients are men. The most common types of cancer are: head and neck cancer (26%), followed by gastrointestinal cancer (16%) and breast cancer (15%). The CMF got the most number of calls from Hyderabad, followed by Meerut and Mumbai.   

India is now considered to be the ‘cancer capital’ of the world. It accounts for the highest number of cancer deaths among all countries, and more than one million cases are reported very year. There may be many cases which are not reported at all, considering the poor state and reach of the public health system. Till now, people in the higher age groups were more prone to cancer. Though they still account for the most number of cases, the increase in the number of younger people with cancer has serious implications. Rising obesity, dietary changes, especially the increase in consumption of ultra-processed foods, and sedentary lifestyles are considered to be among the reasons for increasing incidence of cancer among younger persons. Consumption of tobacco and alcohol is another reason. In the case of cancer, as in the case of many other diseases, early detection is important for treatment. But in about two-thirds of the cancer cases, detection is not done in time. The study found that 27% of cancer cases are found out in the early stages while 63% are diagnosed in the late stages.

The lowering of the cancer-prone age has serious implications for the country’s health profile, individual and family budgets, and the economy and society as such. People under 40 are productive persons and form an important part of the working age group. Most of them have families, with children growing and going to school, and many may have parents also to look after. The country’s strategy to fight cancer should give special attention to this. There should be campaigns and education on lifestyle changes, and more facilities for screening, early detection and treatment of cancer. There should also be more studies and research, medical and non-medical, on cancer, which will be useful in the fight against the disease. 

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