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Cancer is the second leading cause of death globally after cardiovascular diseases
Cancer is the second leading cause of death globally after cardiovascular diseases|Representational image
NEWS

Why Mizoram continues to be the ‘cancer capital’ of India

Extensive consumption of tobacco, unhealthy food items such as smoked meat and fermented soyabean behind higher incidence of disease in state

Henry L Khojol

Aizawl: Branded as the “cancer capital” of India, Mizoram continues to hold the dubious distinction of being the state with the highest incidence of cancer in the country.

Although there is no new data available with the government, at least 4,656 new cases of cancer were reported between 2012 and 2014, state nodal officer for non-communicable diseases Dr Eric Zomawia said, quoting a Population Based Cancer Registries (PBCR) report released in 2016.

During the same period, 2,176 people, including 830 women, died due to various types of cancer.

Zomawia was speaking on the occasion of World Cancer Day at the Assembly Annexe conference hall in Aizawl on Monday.

Of the 4,656 new cases, 2,089 were women. On an average, there were 1,552 new cancer cases each year in Mizoram against the national average of 1.15 million, he said.

The average death toll due to cancer per year is 711 in Mizoram, while in India 7.8 lakh deaths due to the disease are reported every year, he added.

On the rise

According to 2011 Census, Mizoram has only over 10 lakh population, which is expected to increase to about 12 lakh now.

Zomawia said that Mizoram not only holds the top position in cancer across all sites for men and women but also tops in tongue cancer (men), lung cancer (men and women), stomach cancer (men and women), hypopharynx cancer (men), and gland cancer (men).

It also tops the list in cervical cancer among women in the country.

According to the officer, stomach cancer with 710 cases was the commonest in Mizoram between 2012 and 2014 followed by lung cancer at 688 cases.

He said that extensive consumption of tobacco (which contributed more than 30%), coupled with unhealthy food items such as smoked meat and vegetables and fermented soyabean and pork are the main factors for high cancer rate in Mizoram.

“At the present rate of cancer incidence, an average of three people in Mizoram is infected with the cancer per day,” he said.

Six districts of Mizoram – Aizawl, Champhai, Kolasib, Lunglei, Mamit and Serchhip – are among the ten districts of India with the highest cancer incidence among men. The other districts are North Goa, Chandigarh, Kollam and South Goa.

The way ahead

Addressing the gathering on World Cancer Day, state health minister Dr R Lalthangliana expressed concern about Mizoram holding the dubious distinction of being the state with the highest cancer incidence, highest tobacco consuming state and highest HIV/AIDS-prevalent state in the country.

He called for collective efforts to fight the menace on a war footing.

Citing that about 30 to 50% of cancer cases are preventable if a healthy lifestyle is followed, according to experts, the minister urged the people to abstain from tobacco, maintain healthy food habit and regular exercise.

Lalthangliana said that the state government is giving utmost concern to high cancer incidence in the state and is taking massive effort to reduce the rate.

He said that the Centre has sanctioned Rs 44.27 crore for upgradation of Mizoram State Cancer Institute into Tertiary Cancer Care Centre (TCCC), of which Rs 14.64 crore has been released as first installment.

He added that he recently met Union health secretary Preeti Sudan in New Delhi asking her to release second installment.

The World Cancer Day programme was attended by many important officials, medical students and health workers.

The theme for this year was 'I am and I will'.