India reported 1.41 million new cancer cases in 2022; breast cancer ranks highest

Globally, lung cancer most common, followed by breast, colorectal, prostate and stomach cancers

By Seema Prasad
Published: Friday 02 February 2024
Photo for representation: iStock

The figures for cervical cancer deaths in India have been updated.

The burden of cancer cases in 2022 rose by 20 million new cases globally, according to the latest estimates of the global burden of cancer released on February 1, 2024 by the World Health Organization (WHO). India reported 1,413,316 new cases, with a higher proportion of female patients — 691,178 men and 722,138 women.

Breast cancer had the highest proportion in the country, with 192,020 new cases, accounting for 13.6 per cent of all patients and over 26 per cent in women. The approximation reflected the global estimates that ranked female breast cancer as the second highest reported, with 2.3 million cases worldwide.

In India, breast cancer was followed by lip and oral cavity (143,759 new cases, 10.2 per cent), cervix and uterine (127,526 new cases, 9 per cent), lung (81,748, 5.8 per cent), and oesophagal cancers (70,637 new cases, 5.5 per cent). The top five cancers were ranked by cases in 2022 by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), WHO’s cancer agency. 

“Women in lower Human Development Index (HDI) countries are 50 per cent less likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer than women in high HDI countries, yet they are at a much higher risk of dying of the disease due to late diagnosis and inadequate access to quality treatment,” Dr Isabelle Soerjomataram, deputy head of the cancer surveillance branch at IARC, said in a press statement.

Globally, lung cancer was the most commonly occurring, with 2.5 million new cases or 12.4 per cent, the WHO said. Female breast cancer ranked second (2.3 million cases, 11.6 per cent), followed by colorectal cancer (1.9 million cases, 9.6 per cent), prostate cancer (1.5 million cases, 7.3 per cent) and stomach cancer (970,000 cases, 4.9 per cent).

Further, about 9.7 million global deaths due to cancer were reported in 2022, with 916,827 cancer deaths reported in India alone in 2022. The estimates included the deaths of 470,055 men and 446,772 women in the country.


Source: WHO

The IARC also found that about one in five people develop cancer in their lifetime, killing one in nine men and one in 12 women.

In Asia, tobacco usage contributed to lung cancer emerging as the most common type of cancer. In India, lip, oral cavity, lung and oesophagus cancer were the four leading types of cancer for men. For women, it was breast, cervix, uterine cancer and ovarian cancer.

A recent study assessing the cancer burden in Asia, published in The Lancet Regional Health, found that India alone accounted for 32.9 per cent of global deaths and 28.1 per cent of new cases of lip and oral cavity cancer in 2019. This was on account of the widespread consumption of smokeless tobacco (SMT) such as khaini, gutkha, betel quid and paan masala in South Asian countries like India, Bangladesh and Nepal. Worldwide, SMT is responsible for 50 per cent of the oral cancer burden.

In the absence of enforcing SMT control policies, such as imposing taxes or implementing regulatory mechanisms, it could increase the risk of not just oral cancer but also esophageal and pancreatic cancer, the study warned.

The interim budget 2024-25 announced by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on February 1, 2024 encouraged the vaccination of girls aged 9-14 years to prevent cervical cancer. On the heels of the announcement, the WHO study said that cervical cancer was the eighth most commonly occurring one globally.

Cervical cancer is the most common form of cancer in women in 25 countries, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, IARC estimated. Globally, cervical cancer accounted for 661,044 new cases and 348,186 deaths in 2022.

According to a study published last year in The Lancet Global Health, India accounted for 23 per cent of deaths that occurred due to cervical cancer globally, equivalent to one in four cervical cancer cases being reported in the country.

In India, cervical cancer’s five-year survival rate was 51.7 per cent. However, survival rates in India are lower compared to high-income countries such as the United States, whose five-year survival rate for cervical cancer was 66.7 between 2012 and 2015, another Lancet study said.

The IARC also projected that the cancer burden in 2050 will increase by 77 per cent from the 20 million cases reported in 2022 and reach 35 million new cases. The rapid rise in the cancer burden is owing to multiple risk factors such as tobacco, alcohol, obesity, and air pollution. The vulnerability of these risk factors is influenced by socioeconomic development, which determines exposure.

Countries with the highest HDI are expected to have an additional 4.8 million new cases predicted in 2050 compared to the figures reported in 2022, the IARC said. High exposure to risk factors such as smoking, poor diet, obesity and a lack of exercise causes a higher incidence of certain cancers in developed countries. However, the burden is rising in developing countries as well, a study in journal Annals of Oncology pointed out.

But the proportional increase in incidence is most striking in low HDI countries (142 per cent increase) and medium HDI countries (99 per cent). Likewise, cancer mortality in these countries is projected to almost double in 2050, the WHO stated.

“The impact of this increase will not be felt evenly across countries of different HDI levels. Those who have the fewest resources to manage their cancer burdens will bear the brunt of the global cancer burden,” Dr Freddie Bray, Head of the Cancer Surveillance Branch at IARC, said in a statement.

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