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Why has the incidence of cancer increased in urban India?

Incidences of cancer in urban India

Nimesh was troubled since the past few days. His mother had been detected with an early stage cancer of the lung. The doctors assured him that early detection meant higher success of treatment. However, he was at odds to understand why and how his mother, who followed a strict diet as well as maintained an active lifestyle, contracted this deadly disease.

Cancer statistics in India are growing by leaps and bounds with each passing year. 2018 itself saw close to 8 lakh people in India die of cancer. Upto 12 lakh new cases of cancer are registered every year. Be it a man or woman, there is more than a 9 percent risk of developing cancer, if you are below the age of 75(1). So much so, that cancer is now the second biggest cause of death after heart diseases in India.

According to health experts, there is good news since the higher numbers are a reflection of the improvement in cancer detection. However, at the same time, increased life expectancy as well as higher exposure to cancer related risk factors has led to an increase in the number of age related cancers. With most of the cancer registries in urban areas, the data above is reflective of cancer as an epidemic in the urban population. Let us take a look at some of the factors that can put you at a greater risk for cancer:


1. Tobacco use or smoking :

With every tenth adult in India smoking tobacco, tobacco use ranks high as a risk factor for cancer. It has been associated with 14 different types of cancer, as per epidemiological studies. Tobacco smoke contains more than 7000 chemical compounds, most of which are established carcinogens. Smokeless flavoured tobacco has some 3000 such carcinogenic compounds(2). These lead to the formation of cancerous tumours through multiple mechanisms in the body.

2. Alcohol :

Alcohol consumption has been found to trigger cancer of the oral cavity, pharynx, larynx, oesophagus, liver, colorectum and breasts. Although evidence of biological pathways is yet to be found, there is a positive correlation between alcohol consumption and development of cancer of the prostate gland.

3. Diet :

Up to 30% of all cancers in the developed world and 20% in the developing world are linked to diet. Quite a lot of studies have linked meat intake to the development of cancer. Carcinogenic components present in meat such as N-nitroso compounds, heterocyclic amines or polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons are thought to trigger cancer. Lack of antioxidants in the diet due to consumption of junk food in urban population has also been linked to cancer. This is because antioxidants help prevent cancer prevention by neutralising free radicals that damage cells.

4. Lack of exercise or obesity:

According to the American Cancer Society, being overweight or obese is an important risk factor for cancer of the endometrium or lining of the uterus in women. Obesity in women has been linked to excess belly fat which increases estrogen levels. Abnormal weight gain in men puts them at a higher risk of prostate cancers that are likely to be fatal.

5. Air pollution :

Rising pollution due to vehicular traffic as well as industrial and chemical sectors has led to an increase in particulate matter in the air. Of these, especially PM 2.5, which is even present in indoor air, has been found to contain a higher proportion of carcinogenic compounds which trigger cancer.

6. Pesticides :

A majority of pesticides used for agricultural and residential purposes have been found to contain chemicals that are a risk factor for cancer. Pesticide exposure has been linked to the development of cancer of upto 28 different types including cancers of the brain, bladder, kidney, liver, breast and blood.


Cancer has increasingly come to be known as an environmental and lifestyle disease with not only genetics playing its part, as is evident from the list above. Hence it is important to stay protected in the future.

Future Generali Cancer Protect plan ensures that you are not alone during your fight against cancer, right from the time it is detected to treatment. It provides coverage for both minor and major stage as soon as it is diagnosed. So be wise and safeguard you and family’s future against cancer.

Future Generali Cancer Protect Plan

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