Cancer cases have been on rise at an alarming rate among the youth in the past few decades. Studies attribute the spike in early on-set cancer to modern lifestyle factors apart from the genetic factors. People are not just addicted to smoking and alcohol than ever before, but also to foods high in sodium and low in fibre and fruits. A recent study found out that global cases of early onset cancer have increased from 1.82 million in 1990 to 3.26 million in 2019. Cancer cases that are diagnosed at the age of 14-49 years of age are referred to as early-onset cancers. Experts say the reasons could range from better diagnostic tools to urbanization and even environmental factors like pollution. (See pics: Yoga to brisk walking; exercises that can help reduce cancer risk)
“It is true that the incidence of cancer is on the rise worldwide. This appears to be due to lifestyle changes, processed foods, pollution, genetic predisposition as well as increased awareness and diagnostic advancements. In other words, cancer is becoming an epidemic so we should be able to understand how we can prevent it, or at least detect this disease early when it is curable. The most common cancers in India are breast cancer, head and neck cancer, lung cancer, colorectal cancer and stomach cancer. The prevalence varies from region to region. With better healthcare facilities now available in the country, it should be more convenient for individuals to seek and opinion from qualified medical professionals to prevent and detect cancers early,” says Dr. Vinay Gaikwad, Director – Surgical Oncology, CK Birla Hospital, Gurugram.
REASONS BEHIND RISING CASES OF CANCER
Dr Rajat Bajaj, Principal Consultant – Medical Oncology, Fortis Hospital Noida shares 4 common reasons of spike in cancer cases in recent decades.
1. Better diagnostic tools
With the availability of more diagnostic tools and easy accessibility, case detection is higher. This also leads to detection at an early stage and hence screening and awareness in society are of paramount importance.
Smoking and alcohol are major culprits leading to a wide range of cancers like head and neck malignancies, gastrointestinal and renal/bladder cancers, etc. There has been a sharp rise in the use of vaping/ e-cigarettes among urban youth. Rural areas continue to use hukkah/bidi even for leisure which puts the person and his family (second hand smoke) at huge risk for cancer.
Late marriages, late age of pregnancy, obesity, increased alcohol consumption or smoking by females, and sedentary lifestyle have been responsible for increasing the incidence of breast and ovarian cancer in urban females. Consumption of fast food (rich in spices, fat, and salt) and processed foods are implicated in causing colon cancer in both genders. This practice should be curbed.
High levels of pollution and worsening AQI every year, especially in winter in North India is detrimental to our health and hence cases of non-smokers developing lung cancers have increased many folds. Use of N95 filter masks while going out is advisable.
HOW TO PREVENT CANCER
“The importance of a healthy lifestyle cannot be overstated. A balanced diet rich in antioxidants, avoiding processed meats and red meat, abstaining from tobacco products and alcohol, all play an important role in decreasing one’s risk of developing cancer. More importantly, one should not ignore warning signs such as unexplained weight loss, decreased appetite, prolonged cough, blood in stool or urine, an increasing painless lump in the breast or other parts of the body,” says Dr Gaikwad.
“In addition, in high-risk individuals, screening tests should be performed so that cancer may be detected in asymptomatic individuals. Lastly, anyone can suffer from cancer. Be aware, make people aware and take care of yourself. There is no need to be paranoid but understanding signs and symptoms will really help. Because cancer is curable if detected early,” concludes Dr Gaikwad.