This estimate, which tallied cancer deaths by about in India in 2010, was recently published in The Lancet.  

An innovative registration system

Cancer deaths were identified by trained social workers and doctors in a nationally representative sample of 1.5 million households which constitutes the Sample Registration System (SRS) for projecting births and deaths in India. They estimated cancer deaths among urban and rural populations, less and more educated people, and in different states of India using this approach.

New statistics to improve cancer control in India

In this study, tobacco-related cancers represented around 42% of male and 18% of female cancer deaths. In men, two of the most common fatal cancers were oral (including lip and pharynx) and lung. ‘€œA priority for cancer prevention is tobacco control, particularly through higher taxation of tobacco products to increase the low levels of cessation,’€ said Dr Freddie Bray, the collaborating IARC scientist. Cervical, stomach and breast cancers accounted for 41% of cancer deaths in women in rural and urban areas. Thus, interventions such as tobacco control, human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination, cervical cancer screening alongside early detection and treatment of oral and breast cancer can have a substantial impact in India in averting future cancer deaths.

This landmark study, as well as providing a unique snapshot of the current Indian situation with respect to cancer mortality, paves the way for other emerging economies to implement similar systems in settings where the civil death registration systems (CRS) are either non-existent or too weak to provide reliable information on the numbers and causes of deaths.

Cancer mortality is a key measure of the cancer burden in a given country and provides an important basis for implementing public health preventive measures.

The study was led by Dr Prabhat Jha, the Director of the Centre for Global Health Research at St. Michael’s Hospital, Canada, in collaboration with Indian national institutions and the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). India is the first of the emerging economies to join IARC in 2006, and is an active Participating State of the global cancer research agency.

Incidence and mortality

Whereas reliable information on new cancer cases is provided by the population-based cancer registries in India and forms the basis for the national incidence estimates available in IARC’€™s GLOBOCAN database, reliable information on cancer deaths in the country is now provided by the study by Jhaand colleagues.

A landmark study

Dr Christopher Wild, IARC Director, concluded: ‘€œThis study should stimulate further interventions to substantially decrease the cancer burden in India. The unique profile of the cancer mortality situation provided by the SRS statistics complements the GLOBOCAN estimates, making it possible to adapt public health preventive and control plans to specific cancer problems within the diverse populations of India. The methodology should be further studied to assess its potential for implementation in other emerging economies without reliable cancer registration systems or civil registration systems.’€


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