Globally, cancer cases in men far outnumber those in women, but a new paper has found that India observes a reverse trend in this regard.
Researchers from the National Institute of Cancer Prevention and Research-Indian Council of Medical Research (NICPR-ICMR) co-authored the paper which says that the proportion of women getting diagnosed with cancer in India is higher than men.
This is a huge contrast to the global age-standardised cancer incidence of men having a 25% higher incidence than women.
However, in India, breast, cervical, ovarian, and uterine cancer account for more than 70% of cancers in women.
The number of new cancer cases for both sexes in India is over 1.5 million, and is predicted to nearly double in the next two decades.
India’s real cancer incidence for women is estimated to be 1-1.4 million per year.
Sadly, survival rates in India are quite poor and less than 30% of cancer patients survive five years or more after being diagnosed.
In 2015, reported incidence of cancer in India was 0.7 million, the third highest after China and the US.
According to NICPR data, around 2,00,100 men and 1,95,300 women die of cancer every year.
However, the 2011 Census puts India's sex ratio at 943 females per 1,000 males, making the rate of cancer deaths in Indian women is higher than that in Indian men.
The paper was authored by researchers from the University of Birmingham and those from the Southeast Asia regional office of the World Health Organisation (WHO).
Another co-author is Dr Ravi Mehrotra, director NICPR-ICMR he said to the Indian Express, "More than 90% of all female cancers are not inherited, so genomic screening is not a cost effective option. But if we can do a basic screening of 80% of the population, that would go a long way. There was an earlier plan but now work has started for training manpower for screening for cervical, breast and oral cancers.
"The problem is that there are questions about how effective mammograms are for breast cancer screening. In our country, additionally, we don’t have enough machines or trained radiologists to read mammograms. So, it is either a clinical examination or a breast self-examination. For cervical cancer, pap smear is too costly. There is the visual inspection with acetic acid for which people are being trained," he added.
India unsuccessfully launched the National Program for Prevention and Control of Cancer, Diabetes, Cardio Vascular Diseases and Stroke (NPCDCS), in 2010, under which screening was supposed to have been undertaken for cervical, breast and oral cancers. However, the program never went live.
In 2016, a similar plan to screen for cancers and CVDs was launched with an initial aim of rolling it out in 100 districts, the plan now covers 165 districts.
The paper was published in the medical journal Lancet Oncology.