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Why is The Northeast Considered The Cancer Capital of India

Last year, the Indian Council of Medical Research and National Centre for Disease Informatics & Research, projected the number of new cancer cases in Northeast. It is likely to increase more than the initial estimated number in 2020. This study included data from hospital-collected registries. It shows that the North East Indian states have the highest age-adjusted cancer incidence rates as of 2021. 

Most prevalent types of cancer

Depending on the lifestyle, the geographical location and the kind of food primarily grown in these regions, there are four types of cancer that are more common in the North East regions of the country. 

  • Oesophagus cancer
  • Breast cancer
  • Cervical cancer
  • Stomach cancer

Common contributing factors

The prevalence of cancer that exists in these regions is due to a few dominant factors. They include tobacco consumption, which studies show is a daily lifestyle trait. A total of 42.5% of cancer is directly in link to various kinds of tobacco consumption. Reports also show that the addictive characteristics of raw betel nuts and fermented varieties of betel nuts in these regions. They have proven carcinogenic elements linked to the disease rates.

Oesophagus Cancer

Aside from the consumption of tobacco, the other main reason is the dietary habits of the people. The food varieties involve dishes made with high levels of spices and chillies, which these regions are famous for. The people also tend to consume very hot beverages like tea and coffee. Studies show that the people who drink very hot tea are four times more susceptible to oesophagus cancer. 

Breast Cancer

With the generally unhealthy lifestyle that adds to the probability of cancer, breast cancer is more prevalent in women. Studies show that the main reasons are tobacco consumption, late pregnancies and obesity.

Cervical Cancer

Lack of sexual hygiene, practice of having several sexual partners, and general lack of sanitation increase the incidences. HPV (Human Papillomavirus) infections cause cervical cancer, which transmit sexually.

Stomach Cancer

The use of filthy food and water, which leads to infections, increases risk of stomach cancer. The region is also known for eating high-salt and smoked foods, both of which serve as breeding grounds for this bacteria, adding to rising cancer rates.

Inadequate screening options

Despite the prevalence of cancer, North-East part of India is the region with the least accessible sources for cancer treatment. The entire Northeastern belt has a combined number of eight centres, including surgery, radiation and chemotherapy, which cater to the cancer patients of the population. 

Even in the eight centres, there is a lack of expert oncologists, which results in the patients being referred to hospitals outside the state, which result in either the patients travelling outside to get essential treatments or to neglect necessary treatment completely, which ultimately leads to the disease taking over the person.

Measures to solve the crisis

The only measure that will increase the availability of cancer treatment to patients in the North-East part of India is making the accessibility to treatment more accessible. Also, remote access to treatment and treatment options should be available for people through phone or the internet. This will allow patients to consult with experts before they travel far for the treatment and get a clear idea of the line of treatment that they can get based on the type of cancer they have.

While these are the steps that the government can take to make treatment more accessible, the choice of a healthier life amongst the native population should be made aware so that the risk of cancer amongst the people is reduced. Individuals must give up behaviours like smoking and chewing tobacco, as well as limit their intake of very spicy foods and piping hot beverages.


It is critical to promote remote consultations in areas like northeastern India, where people confront high incidence rates and limited treatment alternatives. Hospitals, administrative bodies, medical organisations, NGOs, and others must work together to transmit the essential awareness and lifestyle counselling.

Expert Guidance from Cancer Coach

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