Feb. 4: The Kamrup (metropolitan) district has the highest incidence of cancer in the state and one of the highest in the country.
While a majority of cancer cases in the district are tobacco-related, certain habits like consuming excess of smoked food and red meat besides an unhealthy lifestyle also cause different types of cancers in men and women. This was revealed by oncologists on World Cancer Day today.
Though the state health department, medical personnel and various NGOs are carrying out awareness campaigns against tobacco use, people are taking to consumption of tobacco either in the form of smoking or chewing smokeless tobacco products like gutkhas and paan masalas.
Cancers of the lip, tongue, oral cavity, hypopharynx, pharynx and oesophagus in both men and women are associated with tobacco consumption.
The exact number of tobacco products currently sold in the district on a daily basis is, however, not available.
“Addiction to tobacco is even stronger than addiction to drugs like heroin. Gutkhas and paan masalas are completely tobacco products and harm all the vital organs of a person. While tobacco cessation and awareness activities are aiding a certain percentage of the addicts to give up tobacco, the remaining are still consuming it,” the in-charge of the department of preventive oncology at Dr B. Borooah Cancer Institute (BBCI), Srabana Misra Bhagawaty, said.
“To add to the tobacco burden, new people are getting addicted to such products. People already know the harmful effects of tobacco, but once they get addicted they find it hard to resist. So the intelligent thing to do is to never take it at all,” she said.
According to statistics, a total of 986 cases of cancer patients were reported in Kamrup (metropolitan) district in 2011-12 of which 550 are males and 436 females. According to the Population Based Cancer Registry (2006-08), under the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), the Kamrup (metropolitan) district has the second highest incidence of all types of cancers in males in the country. The district also has the third highest incidence of all cancers in women in the country. Eighty per cent of these cancers are preventable. Majority of the cancers reported have been found to be tobacco-related.
“Research has proved that certain food habits also trigger cancers, particularly of the stomach. Consuming too much of smoked food items can lead to cancers. Drying food cooked in this manner for a long time leads to creation of nitrosamines in the food that are carcinogenic in nature,” Bhagawaty said.
Red meat contains nitrosamines that are highly carcinogenic in nature. Consuming too much of red meat and cutting down on essential fibres that are derived from leafy vegetables can precipitate colon cancer. Lack of awareness about risk factors and misconception regarding cancer also act as obstacles in prevention of the disease.
“Many mothers do not breastfeed their babies; breastfeeding prevent breast cancer. Sexual health is also essential. Having unprotected sex with multiple partners is the prime cause of cervical cancer in women. These cancers are preventable,” Bhagawaty said.
The BBCI in association with the Voluntary Health Association of Assam and the song and drama division of the Union ministry of information and broadcasting today organised street plays in front of Arya Vidyapeeth College, Cotton College, Handique Girls’ College and Gauhati University to spread awareness on cancer. Information, education and communication materials were also distributed among the public at these spots.
In keeping with World Cancer Day’s theme “Cancer — did you know?” the BBCI will conduct a monthlong activity comprising awareness programmes and advocacy workshops on cancer risk factor reduction in educational institutions in the city and also in rural areas of the state.