Srinagar: Jammu and Kashmir has seen a consistent increase in cancer cases with the union territory reporting 51,000 cancer cases in the last four years (2019 to 2022), according to the data of the Government of India.
The Union Health Ministry data reveals that J&K reported an estimated 51,577 cases of cancer, with 12,396 cases being reported in 2019, 12,726 cases in 2020, 13,060 cases in 2021, and 13,395 cases in 2022.
A quick glance at the statistics reveals that cancer cases are constantly rising. According to the ministry, the Indian Council of Medical Research gathered the information for the ‘National Cancer Registry Programme Report’.
Cancer is a multifactorial illness, with ageing populations, sedentary lifestyles, cigarette use, poor diet, and air pollution among the risk factors.
The statement from the ministry states that “the number of cancer cases related to industrial and water pollution is not accessible”.
People, healthcare professionals and the government share the concern over the rising trend in cancer cases in J&K.
In the past, several studies have been conducted to identify the factors that may be contributing to the rise in these cases.
A 2012 study of Sher-e-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences (SKIMS) attributed the rising cancer incidence to “dietary practises and lifestyle choices” as well as the intake of foods with high salt content.
Numerous dyes are suspected to cause cancer in humans and are frequently used in food industry.
Additionally, some of these dyes like carmoisine and tartrazine have been found to being used in Kashmir as colouring agents in certain foods, spices, and sauces. Food adulteration and contamination have grown in importance as a problem in Kashmir in the recent years.
Some of the food products produced by large business companies have even been found to contain hazardous substances. As a result of this, the High Court in 2014 was compelled to impose severe restrictions on them.
Kashmir’s first Population-based Cancer Registry (PbCR), the two-year data under the project, brought to fore many unknown facts about how various cancers afflict the region.
In 2017, 507 lung cancer patients were registered at Regional Cancer Center, SKIMS, Soura, the only institute to have a hospital-based cancer registry.
As per the registry, lung cancer was at the top among all cancers that year, replacing oesophagal cancer, which was recorded as afflicting the highest number of patients prior to this.
However, since 2018, when the registration of cancers was expanded and taken into the community, lung cancer was pushed to number three.
As per PbCR and Hospital-based Cancer Registry (HbCR) combined together, 2098 patients with cancers of the stomach and stomach junction were recorded in 2018 and 2019 together.
This was the highest for any cancer with both genders together. It was followed by another gastrointestinal (GI) tract malignancy – esophagus cancer with 966 patients.