Pakistan is observing World Cancer Day today (Wednesday) with rising awareness about the disease’s devastating impact on health. However, despite all such awareness campaigns and commitments, cancer is steadily on the rise and every year nearly 80,000 Pakistanis lose their battle of life against the disease.
After cardiovascular disease, cancer is the second biggest killer in the world. There were an estimated 8.2 million deaths from cancer in 2012. In Pakistan alone, there are more than 1.4 million cancer patients.
Cancer is a leading Non-Communicable Disease (NCD), which constitutes 60 per cent of the total health burden of the country. Smoking and use of various forms of tobacco are the major risk factors behind the incidence of cancer. Various reports and surveys conducted at the national and international levels have revealed that smoking is directly linked with cancer, and the more one uses tobacco, the greater ones risks of the deadly disease.
The International Lung Cancer Morbidity and Mortality Trend Report 2014 reveals that more than 90 per cent of the lung cancer is caused by active smoking. According to the recent Pakistan Demographic and Health Survey Report (PDHSR 2012-2013), the incidence of smoking has increased during the last one decade. There is a stark increase in tobacco use among men as 45 percent of the male population aged 15-49 years use some form of tobacco. Of the total number of smokers, 70 percent use tobacco in the form of cigarettes (10 or more daily). In this backdrop, it is clearly evident that smoking or tobacco use is a risk factor for lung and other forms of cancer.
Talking to the media, the executive coordinator of TheNetwork for Consumer Protection Nadeem Iqbal expressed concern over the rising trend of smoking and incidence of cancer in Pakistan. He said smoking is not only harmful for its users but also for everyone in close proximity to a smoker. Secondhand smoke is equally hazardous and causes a number of diseases including lung cancer.
“In order to combat both the tobacco epidemic and cancer incidence, we need to put more pressure on the industry and not just on consumers,” Nadeem said, adding NCDs should be a priority agenda for which the government must take appropriate policy measures at the national level.