Lung cancer is currently responsible for the largest number of deaths due to a cancer in the country and doctors are conducting more research to prove just how disturbing the trend is.
Adding to this growing evidence, a research from Sir Ganga Ram Hospital on Tuesday noted that nearly 21% of its patients with lung cancer were below the age of 50 years.
“What is even more disturbing is that 5 of 31 patients in the younger-than-50-year age-group were less than 30-year-old and nearly 50% of the patients were non-smokers,” said the report.
During the study period, 150 patients were analysed retrospectively. The age at presentation, gender and smoking status were recorded and analysed, among other parameters.
Even more distressing was the fact that this figure rose to 70% in the younger age group, that is patients who were less than 50-year-old. None of the patients who were less than 30- year-old were smokers. The male to female ratio of the study group was 3.8:1, indicating a significant rise in proportion of female patients compared to studies in the past, which had reported a much lower incidence of the disease in females.
Nearly 30% of the patients were initially misdiagnosed as suffering from tuberculosis. They were treated for tuberculosis for many months, leading to delay in definitive diagnosis and treatment.
The study said a majority of the patients suffered from adenocarcinoma — compared to squamous carcinoma in earlier reports — which has a relatively poorer outcome.
“Despite the limitation of having a relatively small number of patients, the study indicated a very disturbing trend in the incidence of lung cancer — the occurrence of the disease in patients less than 50 years of age, with some even younger than 30 years; the increase in the proportion of females, and nearly 1:1 ratio of non-smokers and smokers point towards environmental factors like air pollution as a major causative agent. Lung cancer has typically been called a smoker’s disease, a disease of old age and strong male preponderance but this scenario is fast changing in our patient population, said Arvind Kumar, founder trustee of Lung Care Foundation and Chairman of Centre For Chest Surgery, Sir Ganga Ram Hospital.
Dr. Kumar lung cancer is a dreaded disease with one of the lowest five-year survival rates.
“As a doctor, I am shocked by the alarming rise in the number of cases, occurrence in younger individuals, non-smokers and women. While conventional wisdom says that smoking is the main cause, there is strong evidence now that points to the increasing role of polluted air in increasing incidence of lung cancer. #Beatlungcancer is an initiative by the Lung Care Foundation to raise awareness, promote screening for early detection, and provide inspiration and support through stories of strength of other patients,” he said.
Bad air pollution
The report noted that with the bad air pollution scenario “we are only going to see an exponential rise in the incidence of lung cancer. These estimates are staggering and point towards an imminent epidemic of lung cancer that we are about to face”.
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