Breast Cancer Epidemiology in India: Insights from a Systematic Review

Breast cancer is the most common cancer among women worldwide, and India is no exception. In fact, it has ranked as the number one cancer among Indian females, with an age-adjusted rate as high as 25.8 per 100,000 women and a mortality rate of 12.7 per 100,000 women. This alarming statistic highlights the need for a better understanding of breast cancer epidemiology in India.

To address this need, a systematic review was conducted to bring together information scattered across different Indian registries and studies to see a broader picture of breast cancer epidemiology in the Indian subcontinent. The review article titled “Epidemiology of breast cancer in Indian women” was published in the Asia-Pacific Journal of Clinical Oncology in 2017.

The review article analyzed data from various national cancer registries to compare incidence and mortality rates across different regions of India. The age-adjusted incidence rate of carcinoma of the breast was found to be as high as 41 per 100,000 women for Delhi, followed by Chennai (37.9), Bangalore (34.4), and Thiruvananthapuram District (33.7). These rates are significantly higher than those reported in other Asian countries such as China and Japan.

One significant finding from the review article is that there has been a statistically significant increase in age-adjusted rates over time (1982-2014) in all the population-based cancer registries (PBCRs) analyzed, namely Bangalore (annual percentage change: 2.84%), Barshi (1.87%), Bhopal (2.00%), Chennai (2.44%), Delhi (1.44%), and Mumbai (1.42%). This increase could be due to various factors such as changes in lifestyle habits, increased awareness leading to better detection rates, or environmental factors.

Another important finding from the review article is that young age has been identified as a major risk factor for breast cancer in Indian women. This is in contrast to the trend observed in Western countries, where breast cancer is more common among older women. The review article suggests that this difference could be due to genetic factors or differences in lifestyle habits.

The review article also highlights the significant disparity in breast cancer rates between rural and urban areas. The mortality-to-incidence ratio was found to be as high as 66 in rural registries, whereas it was as low as 8 in urban registries. This disparity could be due to various factors such as lack of awareness, limited access to healthcare facilities, or inadequate screening programs in rural areas. The review article emphasizes the need for targeted interventions to improve breast cancer outcomes in rural areas.

The review article also provides projections for breast cancer in India during the time period 2020. The number of breast cancer cases is expected to rise as high as 1,797,900. This projection highlights the urgent need for effective prevention and control strategies.

One potential strategy is to increase awareness about breast cancer and its risk factors among Indian women. This could be achieved through community-based education programs or mass media campaigns. Another strategy is to improve access to healthcare facilities and screening programs in rural areas. This could involve setting up mobile screening units or increasing the number of trained healthcare professionals in rural areas.

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