A staggering 65.2% of cancer deaths among women could be prevented through primary prevention and early detection strategy, according to a recent report by Lancet. Cancer Premature Cause tops among women.
The report Women, Power and Cancer” notes that out of the 2.3 million women who succumb to cancer prematurely each year, an estimated 800,000 lives, or nearly 35% of these fatalities, could be saved if all women had access to optimal cancer care.
This global analysis underscores the importance of addressing key risk factors, namely tobacco, alcohol, obesity, and infections. If these risk factors were effectively managed, it’s estimated that 1.3 million women of all ages could be saved annually.
Cancer Premature Cause MORTALITY
Cancer ranks among the top three causes of premature mortality in women in almost all countries worldwide, including India. In emerging economies like India, infections, tobacco, alcohol, and obesity are identified as the four major determinants of health and cancer risk for women. Infections contribute to 23% of these risks, followed by tobacco at 6%, alcohol at 1%, and obesity at 1%.
The Lancet report also highlights the compelling story of a 36-year-old woman from Mumbai, exemplifying the challenges women face when living with cancer, domestic violence, and poverty. Despite their significant burden of cancer, women’s health globally continues to be predominantly cantered around reproductive and maternal health.
The report calls attention to the social and economic consequences of individuals experiencing cancer, emphasizing the hardships faced by women, particularly those raising children. In 2020 alone, an estimated one million children were orphaned due to the premature deaths of mothers from cancer.
LESS AMENABLE TO PRIMARY PREVENTION
Despite the alarming statistics, the study points out that cancer in women are less amenable to primary prevention compared to cancer in men. For instance, the causes of breast cancer, the most common cancer among women globally, remain poorly understood, and many identified risk factors, such as genetics and reproductive factors, are not easily modifiable. More research is encouraged to gain a better understanding of the causes of cancer in women, including occupational and environmental factors.
The report also provides projections for the future, estimating a significant increase in new cancer cases and deaths among women by 2040. In terms of incidence, the leading cancer types in women are breast, colorectal, lung, cervical, and thyroid cancer, accounting for over half of all female cancer cases. Regarding cancer-related deaths, breast, lung, colorectal, and cervical cancer were the leading causes in 2020, with stomach cancer as the fifth leading cause.
A striking disparity is noted in cancer deaths among women in countries with low Human Development Index (HDI) rankings, where as much as 72% of cancer deaths occur prematurely (before age 70), compared to 36% in countries with very high HDI rankings.
The study emphasizes the need to address patriarchal influences in cancer care, research, and policymaking. It calls for prioritizing actions that routinely collect and publicly report data on sex, gender, and sociodemographic factors in cancer health statistics.
The Lancet report underscores the urgent need to focus on women’s health and address the preventable factors contributing to cancer, aiming to save countless lives in the process.