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Breast cancer cases in India double in two decades: report

May 30, 2015

New cases of mouth cancer and breast cancer have risen significantly in India, says a new report.

Seattle/New Delhi: Breast cancer continues to account for the highest number of new cancer cases among women in India, and mouth cancer has the highest number of incident cancer cases for men, says a new study titled The Global Burden of Cancer-2013.

The study states that the number of new mouth cancer cases in India more than doubled between 1990 and 2013 and was among the highest in the world, up from 55,480 to 127,168. During this period breast cancer cases also more than doubled, from 57,374 to 154,261.

The study, published in the journal JAMA Oncology, also reveals that deaths from ovarian cancer in women jumped by 123%, while cervical cancer showed the smallest increase at 17%. The study highlights that lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in India.

The study was conducted by an international consortium of researchers coordinated by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington.

Among the leading causes of cancer incidence among men, stomach cancer had the lowest increase since 1990 at 33% and prostate cancer the highest at 220%. For women, cervical cancer had the lowest increase in the number of new cases during this time period at 0.2%, while breast cancer had one of the highest increases at 166%.

In India, lung cancer was the leading cause of cancer deaths for men, and breast cancer was the top cause of cancer death for women. Male deaths from lung cancer outnumbered deaths from other cancers in India, at 45,333 in 2013, while breast cancer took more female lives than other cancers, at 47,587.

"Cancer is the second largest cause of death globally after cardiovascular disease,” said Dr Lalit Dandona, professor at PHFI and IHME and study co-author. “Breast cancer is the most frequent cancer in India followed by mouth cancer and cervical cancer. Prevention where possible and early detection are crucial as treatment of late stage cancer is often difficult in less developed settings."

For the leading causes of cancer deaths among Indian men, deaths from mouth cancer increased by 134%, compared to the 16% increase from stomach cancer, which was the smallest increase.

India differed from most other countries with respect to new cases of cervical cancer and mouth cancer. For women, cervical cancer ranked fifth in the top 10 for incident cases globally but ranked second in India. In addition, mouth cancer was not ranked in the top ten for incident cases globally but ranked second in India for men and women combined.

In 2013, there were 14.9 million new cancer cases and 8.2 million cancer deaths worldwide. The leading cause of cancer incidence for men was prostate cancer, which caused 1.4 million new cases and 293,000 deaths. Lung cancer remained one of the leading causes of incident cancer cases among men between 1990 and 2013, but prostate cancer cases have increased more than threefold during this period partly due to population growth and aging.

Other leading causes of incident cases globally include cervical cancer, up 9% since 1990, lymphoma, up 105%, and colon and rectum cancer, which has increased 92%.

The death toll from cancer is also changing as new cases increase. In 2013, cancer was the second-leading cause of death globally after cardiovascular disease, and the proportion of deaths around the world due to cancer has increased from 12% in 1990 to 15% in 2013.

Lung cancer, stomach cancer, and liver cancer have remained the three leading causes of cancer for both sexes combined during this time period. Lung cancer deaths have increased by 56%, stomach cancer deaths by 10%, and liver cancer deaths by 60%.

Cancer is often seen as a problem primarily in more affluent nations, but the disease is an issue in developing countries as well as developed countries. Even though breast cancer remains the leading cause of incident cancer cases for women globally, in developed countries incidence rates have been stable or declining since the early 2000s. The reverse is true in developing countries, where incidence rates are lower but rising faster than in developed countries.

The rankings for developed and developing countries are largely the same when it comes to number of cancer deaths for both sexes, though there are some notable differences. Cervical cancer ranks seventh in developing countries, compared to 17th in developed countries, and prostate cancer ranks 12th in developing countries but sixth in developed countries.

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