India has emerged as the second-highest contributor to the cancer burden in Asia in 2019, reporting around 12 lakh new cases and 9.3 lakh deaths, according to a study published in The Lancet Regional Health Southeast Asia journal, as reported by The Hindu.
The research, conducted by an international team, including experts from the National Institute of Technology Kurukshetra and All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), Jodhpur and Bathinda, unveiled critical insights into cancer trends across the continent.
The study compared 49 Asian countries between 1990 and 2019, revealing that India, China and Japan were the leading nations in terms of both new cases and deaths.
While China topped the list with 48 lakh new cases and 27 lakh deaths, Japan reported nine lakh new cases and 4.4 lakh deaths.
Among the identified cancers, tracheal, bronchus, and lung (TBL) cancer took the lead in Asia, accounting for an estimated 13 lakh cases and 12 lakh deaths.
Notably, cervical cancer ranked second or among the top five cancers in several Asian countries, with the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine proving effective in preventing the disease.
The study emphasised that cancers like TBL, breast, colon and rectum cancer (CRC), stomach, and non-melanoma skin cancer were among the top five most frequent in 2019.
Researchers also highlighted that smoking, alcohol consumption, and ambient particulate matter (PM) pollution remained dominant among the 34 risk factors for cancer.
Concerns were raised regarding the rising cancer burden due to increasing air pollution in Asia, with five of the top 10 countries for PM2.5 levels located in the region.
India, Nepal, Qatar, Bangladesh and Pakistan were cited as having significant PM2.5 levels, attributed to factors such as industry-led economic growth, urbanisation, rural-to-urban migration, and increased motor vehicle usage.
As countries underwent development, the study observed a pattern of decreasing cancer burden in younger age groups and increasing cancer burden associated with longer life expectancy.
In low and medium-income countries of Asia, oncologic infrastructure scarcity, particularly in rural areas, and a weak referral system were identified as factors leading to delayed diagnosis and treatment, impacting survival rates.
Lastly, the researchers urged policymakers to prioritise not only timely cancer screening and treatment availability but also the cost-effectiveness and coverage of treatment expenses in order to address the rising cancer burden effectively.
Nayan Dwivedi is Staff Writer at Swarajya.
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