Tobacco is a Main Cause of Cancer in India

(New Delhi) –– On World Cancer Day, World Lung Foundation calls for high level commitment on the part of government and communities to reduce the incidence of cancers caused by tobacco products, the number one cause of cancer in India. We are also calling for intensified efforts to curb the use of chewed tobacco products that are directly linked to oral cancer, a deadly toll that is higher in India than anywhere else in the world.

Dr Pankaj Chaturvedi, a leading cancer specialist at Tata Memorial Hospital stated: “Estimates from patients at our oral cancer ward indicate that 80%-90% of preventable cancers of the neck, head and throat are tobacco related. The burden of oral cancers caused by chewing tobacco, as well as lung and other cancers caused by smoking tobacco in bidis and cigarettes, is enormous. More than one million Indians die prematurely from tobacco related disease each year and the social and economic costs to our community are immense.”

Shri C. K. Mishra, Additional Secretary of Health, Government of India, stated: “World Cancer Day provides a chance for us to further our efforts to call attention to the high risk of cancers and other debilitating diseases caused by tobacco, often to people in the younger, most productive stages of their lives."

According to Dr. Nandita Murukutla, Country Director, World Lung Foundation, "Public health experts have been sounding the alarm on the astonishing increase in cancers caused by lifestyle factors, in particular tobacco use. Detection and treatment of cancers will not be sufficient to combat the toll of the disease. Governments must urgently implement strong preventive policies like increased taxation and restrictions to access of unhealthy products; enforcement of bans on advertising and promotion of unhealthy products, especially those targeting children and vulnerable populations; and the effective use of all communication vehicles to educate and empower the public."

The symptoms of tobacco related cancers could include shortness of breath, continuous cough and blood in the sputum. With smokeless tobacco, ulcers and lesions on the inside of the mouth, lips and gums, difficulty with swallowing, and constant throat infections can signal the onset of virulent cancers. The relatively poor survival rates of oral cancer patients also signal the need for tobacco users and their families and friends to prevent the onset of cancer through early detection.

Research has shown mass media campaigns and graphic pack warnings are among the most effective means to prompt people to quit tobacco. They are part of the World Health Organization’s M-P-O-W-E-R (W=Warn) strategies to reduce tobacco consumption. M-P-O-W-E-R strategies are endorsed and promoted by the Bloomberg Initiative to Reduce Tobacco Use, funded by Bloomberg Philanthropies, of which World Lung Foundation is a principal partner.