India records 9.3 lakh cancer deaths, second highest in Asia: Lancet study

India registered approximately 12 lakh new cancer cases and 9.3 lakh deaths in 2019, making it the second-highest contributor to the disease burden in Asia for that year, according to a study published in The Lancet Regional Health Southeast Asia journal. The study, conducted by an international team of researchers including those from the National Institute of Technology Kurukshetra and All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), Jodhpur and Bathinda, examined the temporal patterns of 29 cancers in 49 Asian countries between 1990 and 2019 using estimates from the Global Burden of Disease, Injuries and Risk Factors 2019 Study (GBD 2019) .

The study found that India, along with China and Japan, were the three leading countries in Asia in terms of the number of new cases and deaths from cancer. In 2019, Asia had a total of 94 lakh new cases and 56 lakh deaths from cancer. China contributed the most with 48 lakh new cases and 27 lakh deaths, while Japan recorded about 9 lakh new cases and 4.4 lakh deaths .

The leading cancer in Asia was tracheal, bronchus, and lung (TBL) cancer, which accounted for an estimated 13 lakh cases and 12 lakh deaths. TBL cancer was found to be most frequent in men and the third most frequent in women. Cervical cancer ranked second or among the top five cancers in several Asian countries, particularly among women. The researchers noted that the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine, introduced in 2006, has proven to be effective in preventing cervical cancer and reducing HPV-related deaths .

The study identified smoking, alcohol consumption, and ambient particulate matter (PM) pollution as dominant risk factors for cancer in Asia. The researchers expressed concern about the rising cancer burden due to increasing air pollution in the continent. They highlighted that five of the top 10 countries with the highest population-weighted annual average of PM2.5 in 2019 were in Asia, including India, Nepal, Qatar, Bangladesh, and Pakistan .

The researchers emphasized the need for timely availability of cancer screening and treatment, as well as the cost-effectiveness or coverage of treatment expenses, particularly in low- and medium-income countries (LMICs) of Asia. They noted that oncologic infrastructure is scarce or unaffordable in many rural areas, leading to delayed diagnosis and treatment and lower survival rates.