Rise In Cancer

ON the World Cancer Day on Friday last, Director of Health Services Kashmir Dr Mushtaq Ahmad Rather called on people to focus on preventive measures to arrest the growing incidence of the disease in the Valley. He said the government is working on ensuring that the people of all regions, sections and sects get equitable and affordable treatment at all places. The director health was speaking in the light of this year’s theme of World Cancer Day which is ‘Closing the Care Gap.’

The day was observed across the hospitals of the Valley where doctors stressed the need for creating more awareness about the disease and its symptoms to ensure its early detection and treatment. The doctors said that the disease has seen a rise over the last decade. Data over the last year presents a grim picture. Around  3,075 cancer cases were reported in 2011, 3,288 in 2012, 3,157 in 2013, 3,940 in 2014 and 4,257 in 2015.  The figures since have only grown bigger.  In 2021 alone, Sher-i-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences alone registered over 5000 new cases of cancer in 2021 with breast cancer showing a conspicuous spike.

This calls for more pro-active handling of the situation from the UT government. In addition to generous allocation of resources for the treatment, there is an urgent need to investigate the reasons for the sudden increase in the number of cancers in the UT. People need to know as to what has changed in Kashmir that has led to the spread of cancer. It is a pity that our major healthcare institutions have been unable to put into public domain  credible research about the causes for growing incidence of cancer in the region. Such studies will be immensely helpful as they will persuade people to take due precautions to reduce their vulnerability to the disease. The public awareness that the doctors have talked about will flow from this.

Having said that, an earlier study by the SKIMS had blamed the growing incidence of cancers to “food habits and life style patterns” as also to the consumption of high salt content foods.  Many dyes, used in industries and sometimes in foods, are also thought to act as human carcinogens. And some of these dyes, like carmoisine and tartazine, have been found to be used as a coloring agent in many edibles, spices and condiments in Kashmir.

In recent years, food contamination and adulteration has emerged as major issue in Kashmir. Hazardous agents have been found to have been used even in the food products of some major corporate houses. Sadly, J&K Government has so far done little about the growing food adulteration in the UT, which has now been proven to be one of the factors leading to the rise in cases of cancer in the Valley. The rise in cancers is, therefore, a wake-up call. The government has to get cracking on the unscrupulous traders and expose the use of chemicals and dyes in the food. And at least, to start with, there has to be a campaign to create more awareness of the ways in which our food is adulterated.

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