Q. Analyse the factors leading to North East India being termed the 'cancer capital of India.' Suggest strategies to tackle and manage the increasing incidence of cancer in the region.

Relevance: GS III Date: 06/01/24

Ans: North East India, often labeled as India's 'cancer capital,' necessitates an in-depth investigation into the factors leading to high cancer rates in the region. Understanding these causes is vital for creating effective strategies to tackle this major health issue.

According to an ICMR report, the Northeast region of India records the country's highest cancer rates, with an expected 13.5% increase by 2025. Mizoram, especially Aizawl, reports the highest cancer incidence, followed by Meghalaya's East Khasi Hills and Assam's Kamrup Metro district for men. For women, the highest rates are in Arunachal Pradesh's Papumpare district, Aizawl, and Kamrup Metro.

Probable Reasons for increasing cancer patients in North-East India:

  • Geographical Barriers: For instance, patients in remote areas like Arunachal Pradesh face long travel times to reach healthcare facilities.

  • Limited Healthcare Resources: Example includes lack of specialized cancer treatment centers in states like Manipur and Nagaland.

  • Socio-Economic Factors: High poverty rates in regions like Assam correlate with increased tobacco use, a known cancer risk.

  • Cultural Practices: Dietary habits, such as the consumption of smoked meats in states like Mizoram, Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh, Assam etc. have been linked to higher cancer rates.

  • Environmental Influences: The use of biomass fuels in rural areas leads to exposure to carcinogens.

  • Genetic Factors: The diverse tribal populations, such as those in Meghalaya, may have genetic predispositions to certain cancers.

Strategic Measures:

  • Upgrade Healthcare Facilities: For instance, building specialized cancer hospitals and clinics in underserved areas.

  • Community Awareness Programs: Like Mizoram's cancer awareness campaigns, focusing on lifestyle risks like tobacco use.

  • Healthcare Worker Training: Initiatives similar to the Tata Memorial Centre's training programs for oncologists and nurses.

  • Support Cancer Research: Encourage projects akin to ICMR's studies on cancer patterns specific to the Northeast.

  • Better Data Collection: Strengthen efforts like the National Cancer Registry Programme for more accurate regional data.

  • Financial Aid Enhancement: Expand schemes similar to the Ayushman Bharat Yojana, providing broader financial support for cancer treatment.

Effectively tackling the high cancer rates in Northeast India requires a detailed and well-planned strategy. By implementing governmental policies and specific actions, the region can effectively manage and reduce the effects of this significant health issue.

Advait IAS