‘Northeast India, B’desh high prevalence cancer zone’

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Agartala, Sep 6 (IANS) India’s northeast region neighbouring Bangladesh and Myanmar is in the high prevalence zone of different types of cancer and the disease can be prevented by adjusting lifestyle and food habits, say experts.

Cancer experts from India and other countries, assembled here for the 10th International Cancer Screening Network (ICSN) meeting, opine that while lifestyle diseases like diabetes and blood pressure are not curable, most cancers can be healed if detected early.

“The northeast region, Bangladesh and Myanmar are in the high prevalence area of different types of cancer. The cancers’ predominance in the region can be preventable to a large extent by changing lifestyle and food habits,” said G.K. Rath, head of the Bhim Rao Ambedkar Institute Rotary Cancer Hospital (BRAIRCH) affiliated to AIIMS.

He said: “The northeast region has the highest incidence of cancer with 40 per cent of the disease being related to tobacco followed by consumption of fast food, smoked and red meat and alcohol. Physical inactivity and consuming excess calories can also be blamed for incidence of cancer.”

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Rath said the country is facing a surge in non-communicable diseases as compared to communicable diseases unlike the past. “Communicable diseases, which are fatal, have been controlled by medical attention.”

“Cancer is among the top three causes of death in the country with an average of 14 lakh cancer cases diagnosed every year. However, 80 per cent of this disease is curable, if detected and attended early, with 60 per cent of cancer preventable and 70 per cent detectable,” Rath said.

Cancer experts, scientist and doctors from the US, the Netherlands, Denmark, France, Switzerland and Bangladesh, besides from various parts of India, are taking part in the three-day ICSN meeting, which commenced on Monday.

Ravi Mehrotra, director of the National Institute of Cancer Prevention and Research, said: “If 39 cases of cancer per thousand people are found in rural Maharashtra, the ratio in the northeastern region is about 170 per thousand people. The northeastern region is the highest cancer-prone zone in the country. Besides, adjacent Bangladesh and Myanmar are also in the high prevalence zone of various types of cancers.”

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He said the mortality rate depends on the type of cancer.

“Cancer screening using modern methodologies could reduce 80 per cent cancer burden in cervical cancer, 50 per cent in gastrointestinal cancer and 25 per cent in breast cancer.”

“Oral, tongue, lung, breast, cervical, esophageal and gall bladder cancers are highest in the northeastern states where people are traditionally habituated to consumption of various types of tobacco, smoked meat, betel-nut, alcohol and unprocessed items. Lack of adequate knowledge about the bad effects of these intoxicants has further swelled the incidence of cancer,” Mehrotra said.

Ted Trimble, director of the US-based Center for Global Health under National Cancer Institute, said: “We are working in research and information dissemination activities for the past many years. We are keen to share our experience with the experts and doctors dealing with cancer-related activities.”

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Rengaswamy Sankaranarayanan, Special Advisor on Cancer Control and Head of the Early Detection and Prevention Section at the France-based International Agency for Research on Cancer, said that earlier incidence of cervical cancer was very high among Indian women but now breast cancer has become the No.1 cancer.

“As people in northeast India consume less fruits, vegetables and foods with high protein, they suffer from increasing number of cancer. If we are serious about avoiding cancer, we should go for lifestyle change and altering the food habits,” Sankaranarayanan added.

According to a latest report of the ICMR under its National Cancer Registry Programme, Aizawl district of Mizoram and Papum Pare district in Arunachal Pradesh are the two districts in the northeastern region with the highest age-adjusted cancer incidence rate in the country.



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