In next two decades, cancer cases may rise by about 70 pc: WHO

Around one third of cancer deaths are due to the five leading behavioural and dietary risks: high body mass index, low fruit and vegetable intake, lack of physical activity, tobacco use, alcohol use.

The number of new cancer cases world over is expected to rise by about 70 per cent over the next two decades, the World Health Organisation has cautioned. Putting out data on the prevalence of the deadly disease, on World Cancer Day on Wednesday, the WHO said there are 14 million new cases of cancer and over eight million people die from cancer, with 60 per cent of these deaths in Africa, Asia, Central and South America.

College students participate in an awareness campaign to mark the 'World Cancer Day' at Marina beach in Chennai on Wednesday. Photo:PTI

In 2012, cancer was among the leading causes of morbidity and mortality globally and as per India’s Cancer Incidence Report (2009-2011) from 10,57,204 cases in 2012, the numbers went up to 10,867,83 in 2013 and further to 11,17269 in 2014. According to Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare the estimated mortality on account of cancer every year is 5 lakh in the country.

WHO which has launched a global drive to prevent premature deaths from non communicable diseases by 25 per cent by 2025 has stressed on vaccination against human papilloma virus (HPV) and hepatitis B virus (HBV), reducing exposure to non-ionizing radiation by sunlight and ionizing radiation (occupational or medical diagnostic imaging) and early detection as steps towards prevention.

“Around one third of cancer deaths are due to the five leading behavioural and dietary risks: high body mass index, low fruit and vegetable intake, lack of physical activity, tobacco use, alcohol use. Tobacco use is the most important risk factor for cancer causing around 20 per cent of global cancer deaths and around 70 per cent of global lung cancer deaths,” the WHO said in a statement.

No of cancer deaths in the world in 2012 Lung : 1.59 million deaths
Liver : 745 000 deaths
Stomach : 723 000 deaths
Colorectal : 694 000 deaths
Breast : 521 000 deaths
Oesophageal cancer : 400 000 deaths

It also said more than 30 per cent of cancer deaths could be prevented by modifying or avoiding key risk factors, which include tobacco use, obesity, unhealthy diet, urban air pollution and indoor smoke from household use of solid fuels.

Owing to the increasing cancer cases and the burden that it puts on health budget, in India, the Ministry of Health has rolled out cancer screening programmes, stressing on early diagnosis to save lives and increase life expectancy.

While tobacco has been identified as one of the leading causes of cancer in India and steps are being mooted to control the consumption and sale of tobacco products, the Ministry is also going all out to give preventive care a big boost.

A comprehensive National Programme for Prevention and Control of Cancer, Diabetes, Cardiovascular Disease and Stroke (NPCDCS) was rolled out in 2010 covering 100 districts in 21 States with focus on three types of cancer– breast, cervical and oral cancer. A scheme for enhancing the Tertiary Care Cancer facilities in the country has also been approved, under which the Centre will assist 20 State Cancer Institutes (SCI) and 50 Tertiary Care Cancer Centres (TCCC) in different parts of the country.

The Minister of State for AYUSH, Shripad Yesso Naik has also urged scientists and researchers to study remedies and practices offered by traditional methods for cancer care.



New technique fights aging, extends life of cultured human cells .

The high vulnerability of cultured adult stem cells has posed a big problem for microbiological research. But a new technique, developed by Stanford scientists, can extend the life of cultured cells and offer clues to solving diseases and prolonging life.

The technique can quickly increase the length of human telomeres, the protective caps on the ends of chromosomes. As a result, the treated cells behave as if they are much younger and multiply with abandon in the laboratory dish – rather than stagnating and dying. Normally, telomeres shorten with each cell division, and this is the reason a cell eventually dies.

Now we have found a way to lengthen human telomeres by as much as 1,000 nucleotides, turning back the internal clock in these cells by the equivalent of many years of human life,”said Helen Blau, PhD, professor of microbiology and immunology at Sanford, in a statement. “This greatly increases the number of cells available for studies such as drug testing and disease modeling.”

The procedure involves the use of a modified type of RNA (ribonucleic acid), one of the features of a chromosome. RNA carries instructions from genes in the DNA to a cell’s protein-making factories, and with the new method increases the length of telomeres by 10 percent, allowing the cells to divide about 28 more times for skin cells, and about three more times for muscle cells.

“This new approach paves the way toward preventing and treating disease of aging,” said Blau. “There are also highly debilitating genetic diseases associated with telomere shortening that could benefit from such a potential treatment.”

Blau and her colleagues became interested in telomeres when studying the muscle stem cells of boys with Duchenne muscular dystrophy – a genetic disease that leads to muscle wasting – and who also exhibited shorted telomeres.

A paper describing the research extending telomeres was published in FASEB Journal.

This study is the first step towards the development of telomere extension to improve cell therapies and to possibly treat disorders of accelerated aging in humans,” said John Cooke, co-author of the study and now chair of cardiovascular science at the Houston Methodist Research Institute.

If successful, the new technique could make adult stem cells, or differentiated stem cells, more viable for research, since they typically cannot be cultured indefinitely in a lab. While controversial, embryonic stem cells – derived from embryos developed from eggs that have been fertilized at an in vitro fertilization clinic – have advantages over adult stem cells because they are more resilient. They are also less likely to be rejected in therapies.

Vaccines can cause ‘mental disorders’

US Senator Rand Paul, who is also an ophthalmologist, says vaccines can lead to mental disorders, arguing that parents should choose whether they vaccinate their children, not the government.  

US Senator Rand Paul speaking to CNBC.

In an interview with CNBC on Monday, Paul, who is seen as a potential Republican presidential candidate in the 2016 election, said he has heard of many tragic cases where normal children “wound up with profound mental disorders” after receiving immunizations for diseases like Hepatitis B and measles.

“I’m not arguing vaccines are a bad idea. I think they’re a good thing, but I think the parents should have some input,” he added. “The state doesn’t own your children. Parents own the children and it is an issue of freedom.”

Paul stated that vaccines have been voluntary for “most of our history … so I don’t think I’m arguing for anything out of the ordinary.”

Scientists strongly support childhood vaccination programs, and there is not enough evidence that the vaccines for Hepatitis B or measles are unsafe.

However, the debate over the vaccination took on political overtones in the US after President Barack Obama called on Americans on Sunday to vaccinate their children amid a measles outbreak. “You should get your kids vaccinated.”

Paul isn’t the only would-be presidential candidate who has offered an opposing view to Obama’s on the vaccination programs.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie also said parents should have “some measure of choice” in the matter but that ultimately “there is no question kids should be vaccinated.”