Study Shows Increase In Lung Cancers During Last 5 Years In Kashmir

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Srinagar- In a shocking revelation it has come to the fore that over 10 percent of critically ill patients in Kashmir suffer from lung cancer, making it the most common cancer reported in the valley in the last 5 years.

Experts have termed the revelations of the new research as an “imminent disaster” that will require a renewed focus on prevention to combat terminally ill diseases in Kashmir.

The study by five Kashmiri medicos, gives a detailed look at the threats posed by different profiles and patterns of cancers. It concludes that there is a change in the pattern of cancers. Lung and breast have emerged as the most commonly occurring cancers in men and women, respectively, whereas there was a slight downward trend in the incidence of esophageal cancer.

The data for the study, published in the Indian Journal of Medical and Paediatric Oncology, was taken from audited records of 22,188 patients including 12,695 male and 9,493 female patients with a male to female ratio of 1.33:1 with histologically documented cancer registered between January 2014 and December 2018 in the regional cancer center of a tertiary care institute.

The researchers used medical records for all identified patients which were reviewed for demographic information (age of diagnosis, sex, type of cancer, and select risk factors) and the data analysis was done using IBM SPSS Statistics for Windows from IBM Corp.

The data showed that the most common cancer reported in the last five years in Kashmir was lung cancer (10. 6 percent). Besides that, the report noted, the other four cancers reported at the regional cancer center at the Sher-e-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences (SKIMS) were esophagus (9.1%), stomach (9.0%), breast (6.0%), and colon (3.8%).

“Compared with that, the top five cancers reported from our center in 2012 were esophagus and gastroesophageal junction (17.2%), lung (11.9%), stomach (9.7%), colorectal (7.1%), and breast (6.5%),” the study has observed.

The study further added that Prostate cancer was reported in 3.4% of cases, which was much higher than that reported in 2012 (1.7%). Surprisingly, thyroid cancer (6.4%) was the fourth commonest cancer reported in females, while it did not figure in the top 10 cancers in the 2012 report. “Expectantly, cervix cancer did not figure among the top 10 cancers in women,” reads the study.

Underlining the reasons behind sudden rise in cancer in Kashmir, the study observed that among all sedentary habits, a special type of tobacco use (hookah smoking) is one of the main factors behind lung cancer in the region.

“In this region, besides cigarette smoking, we have a popular tradition of hookah (hubble bubble) smoking, where smoke is inhaled after it passes through the water placed in an earthen container through which it gets filtered and cooled. This is also one of the important causes of passive smoking of family members, especially during winters. Because smoking is not popular among females in this region, it justifies the fact that lung cancer is not common in females,” the study reveals.

Besides Hookah smoking, the study has also pointed towards use of a unique type of heating device (kangri) which is considered to be the major risk factor for the digestive tract, lung, and skin cancers seen in this region.

“However, the most notable observation made in this study is that of esophageal cancer. It was previously the most common cancer type since the cancer data were available in the valley and is now showing a declining trend…. However, other digestive tract cancers such as those of the stomach, gastroesophageal (GE) junction, colon, and rectum have shown a gradual increase and continue to be amongst the top 10 cancers monitored during the study period,” the study concluded.

A senior oncologist, wishing anonymity said that the rising incidence of cancer in Kashmir will require a heavier focus on preventive public health policies.

“We cannot treat our way out of the cancer problem,” he said. “More commitment to prevention and early detection is desperately needed in order to complement improved treatments and address the alarming rise in cancer burden.”

The doctor further added that the “cancer rates in Kashmir are not going up for obscure reasons but for reasons that are easier to understand”.

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Zaid Bin Shabir

Zaid Bin Shabir is a special correspondent at Kashmir Observer. He tweets @Zaidbinshabir

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