21 Aug 2012
Rural Ahmedabad is going the urban way. It is not only getting rapidly urbanised but is showing ‘urban’ trends in cancer too, a development that has oncologists worried. Data accumulated through research by the community oncology department of the Gujarat Cancer & Research Institute (GCRI) has found that breast cancer tops the list of cancers reported among women in rural areas of Ahmedabad district.
It should be noted that across the country, there are only two rural-based population cancer registries. One is in Ahmedabad and the other is in Barshi, Maharashtra. The Ahmedabad registry covers both the rural and urban parts of the district. Talking about the findings, director of GCRI, Dr Shilin Shukla, said that the data available from the rural registry in Barshi showed that cervical cancer is the most common cancer reported among women of that area.
"If we consider Barshi as representative of rural areas in general, then it can be taken as an indication of cervical cancer being common among women in rural areas across the country," said Dr Shukla. He added that this, however, was not the case in rural parts of Ahmedabad.
"Breast cancer tops the list in rural Ahmedabad. Even before we began the survey, we had a suspicion that cancer trends in rural Ahmedabad may not go the Barshi way given the high-level of urbanisation here. The survey confirmed our doubts," said Dr Shukla.
Dr Parimal Jivrajani, associate professor, GCRI, who has closely worked on the project, said the survey was carried out by collecting data from various sources. "We collected the data not only from government hospitals but also private hospitals and pathology laboratories, among others," said Dr Jivrajani.
Dr Chirag A Shah, an oncologist, too agreed that breast cancer was more common in urban women while, in rural women, it was cervical cancer. "The most likely cause for this is a lifestyle similar to the western world’s, including problems of obesity, lack of exercise, having children late in life, a shortened breast feeding duration, use of alcohol, among others," he said. l He said that 5% of the breast cancer cases may be due to genetic predisposition. As to why cervical cancer was more prevalent among rural women, Dr Shukla said it was because of poor hygiene. "Early marriage and early sexual activity are some of the other factors," said Dr Shukla. Dr Shah said the human papilloma virus (HPV) which is directly linked to cervix cancer, is spread mainly by sexual contact.