Mumbai: A landmark study published in The Lancet has found that cancer hits Indians much earlier than Westerners. Cancer claimed 6 lakh Indian lives in 2010 and contrary to popular perception, cancer is no longer a disease of the rich. It killed twice as many as poor and illiterate Indians as their educated, wealthy urban counterparts, according to the new Million Death Study in The Lancet that used research from across 16 centres.
The study is significant because till now all the cancer data available was derived from Cancer Registries and 90 per cent of them are based in big cities. But for the first time, 800 professionals were sent door-to-door across 1 million homes in both the neglected rural areas as well as urban cities. A major finding was that 70 per cent of cancer deaths were in the age group of 30 to 69 years.
Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh, Deputy Regional Director, WHO SEARO, said, "The young are more affected with cancer in India whereas in the western countries it's people who are 70 years and above. One reason could be that life expectancy in the west is much more."
In men, the most common cancers are, stomach and lung cancers while, cervical, breast and stomach cancers affect most women.
Jammu and Kashmir has the lowest rates of cancer and Mizoram the highest. Experts say this sort of variance across the country needs an urgent study.
The study also found tobacco to be biggest killer responsible for 40 per cent of male cancers.