Cancer in India

Cancer, long thought of as a disease of richer, industrialised and high-income nations, is now the second leading cause of death in many lower income countries. More than 50% of the world’s cancer burden, in terms of both numbers of cases and deaths, occurs in developing countries and is rising.

By 2020 it is estimated that 70% of all cancer cases will be in these lower income countries—and approximately one-fifth of these will be in India, with its (still increasing) population of over a billion.

The incidence of cancer in India is approximately 60% lower than North America but mortality from cancer is considerably higher in India because of late presentation and lack of treatment. Currently, cancer is the second leading cause of death in India after cardiovascular disease.

India is experiencing rapid demographic, socioeconomic and risk factor changes, particularly in urban areas, leading to an alarming rise in the incidence of chronic diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, heart disease and cancer. As the epidemiological transformation gathers pace, the incidence of cancer is expected to double in the next 10 years to 2 million cases a year.

Changes are also occurring in the relative incidence of different cancers with stomach cancer in men and cervical cancer in women decreasing (traditionally cancers of low-income countries) and some tobacco-related cancers and breast and endometrial cancers in women and prostate cancer in men increasing (traditionally more common cancers in high-income countries).

As the mortality and morbidity from cancer increases in India, there is an urgent need for clinical research into their treatment and prevention. Suitable training opportunities for principal investigators, junior doctors and research nurses have also been lacking.

This rising tide of disease must be met by the combined efforts of the world’s most advanced medical researchers. This cooperative vision is the driving force behind the INDOX Cancer Research Network.

INDOX is currently conducting a full range of trials in all common cancers, but particularly those which are more prevalent in India, such as cancers of the head and neck, cervical, gastric, gall bladder and oesophageal cancer, as well as breast and colorectal cancer.