Cancer incidences expected to double by 2040: WHO
Thiruvananthapuram: Noting that the incidence of cancer is expected to double by 2040, a top World Health Organisation (WHO) official on Wednesday emphasised the need to promote a healthy lifestyle and early intervention to avoid society being overwhelmed by non-communicable diseases.
"We need education and awareness among the population across the world to counter disease causing trends like unhealthy diet, red meat consumption, decrease in physical activity, tobacco use and obesity etc," said Dr Soumya Swaminathan, Executive Director and Chief Scientist, WHO.
"In India, shifting from traditional diet to western diet is one of the major reasons for cancer," she said in her address through a video message at the inaugural session of the three-day annual conference of Indian Association for Cancer Research (IACR) at nearby Kovalam.
The event is being hosted by Rajiv Gandhi Centre for Biotechnology (RGCB).
"India has potential like infrastructure as well as human resources to take advantage of the opportunity to tackle the situation. Noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) like lung diseases, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and cancer are threatening to overwhelm our systems and cause unsustainable costs to countries around the world," she said.
In India, NCDs are emerging as a major public health problem and in fact today account for about 60 per cent of the disease both in terms of death and disability, Dr Soumya said.
NCDs are the largest and related to lifestyle, to social environmental determinants of health as well as individual behaviour.
Sometimes, they require specialised facilities, infrastructure and human resources for diagnosis advice for management, a press release quoting her said.
Pointing out that in many states in India, NCDs have been relatively neglected over the last few years, and were also competing for resources, she said they are also vying with communicable diseases and maternal and child health.
"So, we have to think about how to integrate many of these disease control programmes in providing comprehensive family healthcare," the WHO official said.
Major risk factors for NCDs are tobacco, unhealthy diets, inadequate physical activity, alcohol consumption and, very importantly, air pollution.
The good news is that this understanding offers prospects of integrated timely prevention strategies.
Cancer prevention is considered part of the national NCD strategy, she said.
In India, cancer is among the top causes of death and also among the main sources of catastrophic expenditure of the patients and families.
"We have seen over the last 15 years, both cancer incidence and mortalities have been increasing," she said.
The problems of completely preventable cancer such cervical and oval cancers also remain acceptably high, she said.
The other major preventable cancer is tobacco-related cancer.
About 35-50 per cent tobacco-related deaths occur in men while for women, it is 15-20 per cent, she added.
The WHO official also called for a standardised cancer registry in the country to facilitate studies.
She also noted that it would be a game-changer if Artificial Intelligence (AI)-based technology can be used in cancer treatment.
Former presidents of IACR-Madhav Gajanan Deo, Prof Rita Mulherkar, Prof Neeta Singh and Dr Shubhada V Chiplunka and Prof M Radhakrishna Pillai, President of IACR and Director of RGCB, inaugurated the event.
Priya Srinivas, Secretary, IACR, was also present.
In his keynote address, Prof Partha P Majumdar, former director, National Institute of Biomedical Genomics, West Bengal, said only 10 per cent of cancers were familial and rest of them were non-familial.
Dr Frederic Biemar, Director, International Affairs, American Association for Cancer Research, called for increased, sustained government funding for cancer research and cancer-related sciences.
Dr David A Wink Jr. of National Cancer Institute, NIH, USA, also spoke at a session.
Leading cancer researchers, clinicians, scientists and IPR experts from India and abroad are attending the meet, whose central theme is "Leading the fight against cancer."