Cancer catching Indians at very early stage: Study

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burden of cancers

The average age for cancer diagnosis in India is much lower than to other nations like U.S., U.K., and China. The average age of diagnosis of breast cancer in India is 52 against 63 in the U.S. and UK, while for lung cancer it is 59 years as opposed to around 70 in the West.

As per a report by Apollo Hospitals which looks at trends in Non-Communicable Diseases (NCD) based on the hospital’s data, has highlighted the huge burden of cancers among the country’s younger population and risk posed by low cancer screening rates.

“What is striking in our database is the median age at which people are diagnosed with cancer; cancer affects a much younger population. It is 52 years for breast cancer, 54 years for cervical cancer and 59 years for lung cancer,” Madhu Sasidhar, president and chief executive officer, Apollo Hospitals, said.

The hospital found that colon cancer cases were increasing among younger people, with 30% of colon cancer patients at Apollo Hospitals aged less than 50 years.

But the country falls behind in cancer screenings. “Most nations have strong guidelines for screening,” he said, adding that while the screening rate for breast cancer stood at 74%-82% in the U.S., a mere 1.9% are screened in India.

Raising the issue of Western data being extrapolated in India, he explained how an analysis found the threshold for Prostate-Specific Antigen (PSA) – a blood test – in Indian men was different from the current standards, suggesting the need for local data.

The report also elaborated on mental health, metabolic diseases including diabetes, hypertension, and obesity. It found that three in four people undergoing health checks at Apollo were either obese or overweight, with obesity incidence registering an increase from 9% in 2016 to 20% in 2023.

Apollo has also found that one in three people have pre-diabetes, raising the need for proper diet, exercise and weight loss. While one person in four had diabetes, one in 10 had uncontrolled diabetes.