Mumbai/New Delhi: Cervical cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths among women in India with mortality being three times higher in rural areas than in urban areas, a study by the medical journal Lancet said Wednesday.
"The study found that 17 percent of cancer deaths among women were due to cervical cancer, followed by 14 percent due to stomach cancer and 10 percent due to breast cancer. The study spanned across geographical and social variation in specific cancers, and the degree to which the cancers might be avoided by controlling their risk factors or causative agents," said Prabhat Jha, co-author of the study released in Mumbai said.
"The rate of cervical cancer deaths was nearly the same in rural and urban areas. A similar pattern of mortality rate was seen for breast cancer in both the areas," Jha, director of the Toronto-based Centre for Global Health Research, added.
The study found cancer mortality in 2010 in India to be at a high 71 percent (3,95,400) deaths in people between 30 and 69 years. The authors assessed cancer mortality in the Million Death Study (MDS), led by the Office of the Registrar General of India.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), which has been advocating early detection and prevention among women, personal hygiene and public health education are keys for early diagnosis of cervical cancer.
"Cervical cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in Indian women, killing more than 33,000 women every year in India. The risk of a woman dying from cervical cancer is higher than her risk of dying during child birth (0.8 percent vs 0.6 percent respectively)," Poonam Khetrapal Singh, deputy regional director at the WHO regional office for Southeast Asia in New Delhi, told IANS.
Cervical cancer starts in the cervix, the lower part of the uterus (womb), caused by human papilloma virus (HPV). The virus spreads through unsafe sexual intercourse. Routine pap smear tests are advised so the disease is diagnosed at an early stage.
Reacting to the study, the WHO official said: "Public health education advocating personal hygiene and periodic screening can reduce cervical cancer deaths. Early detection of treatable cancers would save many lives in India, particularly in the rural areas which are under served by cancer screening and treatment."
Oral, stomach and lung cancers leading the causes of death in Indian men.
Interestingly, the study highlights the high variation in the age group affected by cancer in developed and developing countries.
"Cancer accounted for 8 percent of the 2.5 million total male deaths and 12 percent of the 1.6 million total female deaths in the same age group. This is unlike the developed countries where cancer deaths occur during old age," Jha pointed.
The study said: "Tobacco-related cancers represented 42 percent of male and 18.3 percent of female cancer deaths at ages 30-69 years."