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95% cancer cases in India due to poor lifestyle: Dr Pathak

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 Rohit Shishodia
The right lifestyle can save most people from cancer.

95% of cancer cases in India are occurring due to unhealthy lifestyle, including consumption of alcohol, tobacco, unbalanced food habits, lack of physical activity, existing environmental issues and occupational hazards.

Only 5% cancer cases are attributed to genetic issues, or run in families, also known as familial cancer, says Prof Sen Pathak, Department of Genetics, MD Anderson Cancer Centre, The University of Texas. Cancer due to lifestyle is known as sporadic cancer.

“Incidence of cancer is increasing rapidly in India. In the next 15 years, India will top the world in the incidence of cancer. In the US, the incidence of cancer is decreasing, the exact opposite to India,” says Dr Pathak.

Dr Pathak explains that the reason behind this trend is that Indians are becoming Americanized, which means that they are adopting American lifestyle such as eating in McDonalds, late marriage, consumption of tobacco and alcohol which is adversely affecting their health.

“Americans are adopting Indian lifestyle such as consumption vegetarian food. People who eat more non-vegetarian food are likely to have cancer more than those who have vegetarian food. I have seen these trends among young Americans in my 47-years of residency in the US,” adds Dr Pathak.

Dr Pathak informs that India tops neck and head cancer cases due to consumption of various tobacco products. In Varanasi alone, 80 tonnes of tobacco is used, which makes people prone to cancer.

Dr Pathak says there are cases when people consume alcohol but do not suffer from cancer. This is due to individual susceptibility which varies from person to person. One person could develop cancer at age 100 but another one develops at 80, with both having habit of alcohol consumption. But that does not mean one should continue drinking alcohol.

“The tobacco lobby is spreading the myth that tobacco consumption does not cause cancer. I can give thousands of research papers that show tobacco consumption is linked with cancer,” says Dr Pathak.

Women in India use a lot of contraceptive measures which result in late pregnancy. It is another risk factor for cancer. Dr Pathak says that use of chemicals in crops is a major risk factor for cancer incidence, as we consume these chemicals through various food products. Punjab is a major victim of the such cancer cases. Cancer train is very infamous in Punjab.  

“We should consume food as suggested by our Rishi Munees in the past. Hit Bhog (Suitable for your body), Mit Bhog (Eat less) and Rit Bhog (Eat according to season) can reduce the risk of cancer and will allow a person to live a healthy and happy life,” says Dr Pathak.

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