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India can become the new cancer capital of the world: Apollo report

Cancer, diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular diseases, and mental health disorders have reached critical levels, significantly impacting the nation's health, says the report

Samidha Jain
Published: Apr 8, 2024 03:30:11 PM IST
Updated: Apr 8, 2024 09:20:47 PM IST

India can become the new cancer capital of the world: Apollo reportAs per the World Health Organization (WHO), cancer develops as normal cells undergo a transformation into tumour cells through a multi-stage process. Image: Shutterstock

Almost 14 lakh people in India had cancer in 2020. By 2025, this number is expected to rise to 15.7 lakhs, as Apollo Hospitals’ recent Health of the Nation 2024 report. In the past 20 years, there has been a significant rise in non-communicable diseases, making them the primary cause of death in the nation. The report highlights that cancer has emerged as a prominent concern, positioning India to potentially hold the title of 'cancer capital' of the world.

The report observes that in India, the prevalent cancers vary between genders, with breast, cervix, and ovarian cancer being the most frequent among women, while lung, mouth, and prostate cancer are predominant among men. According to recent data, nearly 98 percent of women diagnosed with breast cancer at an early stage achieved a more favourable five-year survival rate. This underscores the crucial role of early screening and diligent monitoring, as early detection, particularly in cases like breast cancer, substantially enhances survival prospects.

In comparison to other nations, cancer diagnoses in India occur at a younger age with 52 being the average age for breast cancer diagnoses, 54 for lung cancer, and 59 for lung cancer, as opposed to the diagnose ages being in the 60s and 70s in the US, the UK, and China. According to the report, a significant hurdle in India's battle against cancer is its inadequate screening rates, which fall far below global benchmarks, underscoring the pressing requirement for proactive steps in preventive healthcare.


As per the World Health Organization (WHO), cancer develops as normal cells undergo a transformation into tumour cells through a multi-stage process, typically advancing from a pre-cancerous state to malignancy. These alterations stem from the interplay of an individual's genetic makeup and three main types of external factors:
  1. Physical carcinogens, like ultraviolet and ionising radiation.
  2. Chemical carcinogens, including asbestos, components found in tobacco smoke, alcohol, aflatoxin (a contaminant in food), and arsenic (a contaminant in drinking water).
  3. Biological carcinogens, such as infections caused by specific viruses, bacteria, or parasites.


WHO lists down preventive measures which individuals can take up to reduce the chance of getting cancer:

  • Not using tobacco
  • Avoiding or reducing consumption of alcohol
  • Getting vaccinated against HPV and hepatitis B if you belong to a group for which vaccination is recommended
  • Avoiding ultraviolet radiation exposure (which primarily results from exposure to the sun and artificial tanning devices) and/or using sun protection measures
  • Ensuring safe and appropriate use of radiation in health care (for diagnostic and therapeutic purposes)
  • Minimising occupational exposure to ionising radiation
  • Reducing exposure to outdoor air pollution and indoor air pollution, including radon (a radioactive gas produced from the natural decay of uranium, which can accumulate in buildings — homes, schools and workplaces)

Other Health Concerns

The Apollo report highlights a concerning uptick in mental health disorders, notably among individuals aged 18 to 40, with depression emerging as a significant issue, affecting one in five people aged 18 to 25. Additionally, chronic stress, prevalent among both young adults and seniors, contributes to a rise in hypertension and diabetes, particularly affecting women.

Also read: How my annual health check-up made me cancer-free

Obesity, a risk factor for non-communicable diseases, has surged, with a majority exhibiting unhealthy waist-to-hip ratios and abdominal fat. The report notes that three out of four individuals are either obese or overweight, with 90 percent women and 80 percent of men surpassing recommended waist-to-hip ratios.

Also read: How particle physics is pushing cancer treatment boundaries

The report also indicates a growing prevalence of high blood pressure and prediabetes, especially among the younger population. About 66 percent of individuals in India are classified as pre-hypertensive, one in three have prediabetes, and 20 percent below 45 years of age are affected by prediabetes.

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