Journal of Family Medicine and Primary Care (Jan 2021)

India needs a resilient cancer program

  • Zarin I Pilakkadavath,
  • Arathi P Rao,
  • K Rajasekharan Nayar,
  • Raman Kumar,
  • Shaffi F Koya

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 10, no. 8
pp. 2735 – 2738


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Background: We analyzed the trends for two important cancers affecting females, breast cancer and cervical cancer, using the Indian cancer registry data and correlated the findings with selected relevant sociodemographic and behavioral indicators. Methods: We examined National Family Health Survey data for the respective states in which registries are located, on relevant indicators like multiparity, early childbearing, cervical examination, multiple sexual partners/high-risk sexual behavior, and HIV prevalence (for cervical cancer), multiparity, early childbearing, duration of breastfeeding, overweight, alcohol use, and clinical breast examination (for breast cancer). We used Global Adult Tobacco Survey smoking data. Results: The top four positions in cancer cervix were all in registries from northeast India with a higher proportion of multiparous women (≥3 births; around 40%), whereas three major metros in the south and the national capital of Delhi, all with a relatively low proportion of multiparous women (11–25%) topped the chart for breast cancer. Overweight/obesity was higher in states with a higher incidence of breast cancer (23.3–31%) compared to states with a lower incidence (12.2–16%). No clear patterns emerged with regard to alcohol consumption, duration of breastfeeding or clinical breast examination. Conclusion: The shift in the childbearing age group explains the increasing breast cancer rates in urban areas, whereas the persisting higher rate of multiparity explains higher cervical cancer rates especially in underserved states in the northeast. India needs to invest in transforming its cancer control program to be a more resilient one with a focus on screening and prevention.