If things continue like this, "there may be almost an epidemic of lung cancer," says Dr Arvind Kumar Chairman, Institute of Chest Onco-Surgery and Lung Transplantation, Medanta Robotic Institute Medanta Hospital, Gurugram.
When the winter months roll in, like clockwork, pollution season descends upon the country, particularly in and around Delhi.
Speaking to FIT, Dr Arvind Kumar breaks down a recent study conducted by his team analysing the data of 300 of his patients with lung cancer.
"We thought, let's take out the charts of the patients we have operated in the last 10 years, look at some of their parameters. What we found was astonishing."Dr Arvind Kumar
This is what they found.
"When I was a student, I was told that it (lung cancer) is a disease of elderly, smokers, and men. That was the description of lung cancer," says Dr Arvind Kumar.
"In men, today it is the number one cancer in terms of incidents, and in women it had galloped from seventh and fifth position to third position in the last decade or so, and is increasing."Dr Arvind Kumar
'Non-Smokers At Risk Too'
We were astonished to find the data from various cities is clearly shows that,
Lung cancer is increasing rapidly in incidents
There are now as many non-smokers getting lung cancer as smokers
"We were also astonished to find that nearly 10 percent of our patients were in the under 40 age group, and most of these younger patients were non-smokers."Dr Arvind Kumar
'Lung Cancer is Preventable'
To summarise, Dr Kumar says, the scenario that is likely to emerge in the future is that,
More younger patients will be diagnosed with lung cancer
More cases will emerge in women
It will be equally in smokers and non-smokers
"Unless we can bring about a radical change, the majority of the patients will be diagnosed in the late stage where cure will not be possible," he adds.
"The good news is that lung cancer is a completely preventable cancer. We know the causes well, smoking and exposure to air pollution. And both can be controlled by efficient, adequate, timely measures."Dr Arvind Kumar
(This was first published on 6 December 2022. It has been published from The Quint's archives over rising pollution levels in Delhi-NCR.)