A Parliamentary Committee on Health and Family Welfare has said that Northeastern states register the maximum number of cancer diseases due to a large-scale use of tobacco and alcohol.
“The prevalence of tobacco (45.7 percent) and alcohol use (22.3 percent) is significantly high in the North Eastern Region compared to the rest of the country. Tobacco which is one of the single most risk factors for all non-communicable diseases is alarmingly high in India. The proportion of tobacco related cancer (TRC) in many North Eastern States is above 50-60 percent in case of male and 20-40 percent in case of female,” the Parliamentary Committee said in its 139th report submitted to Rajya Sabha chairman Jagdeep Dhankar recently.
It said that Tobacco consumption is as high as 60 percent in some Northeastern states against the National tobacco prevalence of 28 percent. The alcohol consumption in the North East is 28 percent which is more than double that of the National prevalence of about 12 percent. As per the International Agency for Research on Cancer, alcohol is a confirmed cancer causing substance and the risk becomes higher when tobacco is consumed along with alcohol.
The Committee is of the firm view that there is an urgent need to disincentivize the consumption of tobacco and alcohol in the country. The Committee which submitted its report to Rajya Sabha chairman Jagdeep Dhankar recommended the Government to formulate effective policies on alcohol and tobacco control.
“India has one of the lowest prices for tobacco products and there is a need to increase taxes on tobacco products. Government should raise taxes on tobacco and utilize the additional revenue gained for cancer prevention and awareness,” the report said.
Noting that more than 80 percent of tobacco consumption is in the form of chewing Tobacco with or without Areca Nut and these products are being aggressively marketed as mouth fresheners, the report said that the Government need to take measures to ban Gutka, Flavored Chewing tobacco, Flavored Areca (Pan Masala) and prohibit direct and indirect advertisements of Pan Masala.
The report also highlights major types and trends of cancers and patterns of gender specific cancers, specific trends (increasing/decreasing) of different types of cancer.
“Among males, cancers of lung, mouth, oesophagus and stomach are the leading sites (major types) across most of the registries. Among females, cancer of the breast is the leading site in 19 registry areas. Cancers of the cervix uteri is the leading site in 7 registry areas. Majority of registries showed a statistically significant increase in Age Adjusted Incidence Rate (AAR) over time with annual percentage change (APC) varying between (0.1 percent) in Bhopal to (3.8 percent) in Kamrup urban for males while (0.0 percent) in Delhi to (3.8 percent) in Kamrup urban for females. The decrease in incidence rate for cervix cancer is seen across all registries including the rural registry at Barshi while cancer of breast, corpus uteri, ovary, lung cancers among females and colon, rectum, prostate among males have shown increase across all registries,” the report said.
The Committee has also noted that that in males, the six Northeastern registries of Aizawl district, East Khasi Hills district, Kamrup Urban, Mizoram State, Papumpare district and Meghalaya have the highest age adjusted incidence rates among all the Population-Based Cancer Registry (PBCRs) in the country.
“Aizwal has the highest age-incidence rate of cancers among males which is 269.4 cases per 1,00,000 males whereas the age-incidence rate of cancers among males in Delhi is 147,” the committee said in its report.