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Smoking and alcohol are the main causes of rising cancer deaths and cases in Asia, a global study finds




Smoking and alcohol are the main causes of rising cancer deaths and cases in Asia, a global study finds

Credit: Pixabay/CC0 public domain

A major new global study published in The Lancet Regional Health – Southeast Asia shows that the number of deaths from cancer in Asia has risen from 2.8 million in 1999 to 5.6 million in 2019, with the increase mainly due to smoking and alcohol.

The study highlights a more than twofold increase in cancer cases, which are expected to rise from 3.7 million in 1990 to 9.4 million in 2019, citing unsafe sex and pollution, among other causes.

The authors write: “In Asia, there were 9.4 million new cases of cancer in 2019, more than double compared to 1990 (3.7 million). In 2019, all cancers resulted in an estimated 5.6 million deaths in Asia, up from 2.8 million in 1990.

“For both genders combined, smoking was the most important risk factor, followed by alcohol consumption and particulate matter (PM) pollution. Of the modifiable risk factors, smoking, alcohol consumption, particulate matter (PM) pollution and unsafe sex remained the dominant ones. risk factors between 1990 and 2019.

“Among men, smoking, alcohol consumption and particulate matter (PM) pollution were the most important risk factors, while unsafe sex caused the maximum DALYs from cancer in women, followed by smoking and a high body mass index.”

The authors assess the total burden of the disease based on DALYs, or the disability-adjusted life year, which according to the World Health Organisationrepresent the loss of one year of healthy life due to illness, causing premature death or disability.

Environmental particles, or PM, is a chemical emitted directly from construction sites, dirt roads, fields, or chimneys during fires. The chemicals include sulfates, nitrates, ammonia, sodium chloride, black carbon, mineral dust and water.

According to one of the co-authors of the study, the study is the result of a large-scale study in which hundreds of researchers from all over the world participated. “This work, part of the GPD Collaborator Network, involves approximately 400 researchers from around the world, selected based on their scientific merits and expertise in the field,” said MoezAlIslam Ezzat Faris, professor of clinical nutrition and diabetes at the University from Sharjah.

The GPD or Global Burden of Disease, based at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington, is the largest and most comprehensive scientific effort to quantify health loss across places and over time. It includes 11,000 individuals from more than 106 countries working together to vet GBD data sources and estimates.

Prof. Faris classifies the research under the GBD category, or Global Burden of Disease. To qualify as a GBD, a study must include the greatest and most comprehensive effort to quantify health loss across sites and over time.

The medical community considers studies using GBD to be the most comprehensive research undertaking to quantify health problems worldwide. GBD-based studies have so far found this more than 607 billion highly standardized and scientifically robust measurement data.

“The main authors listed at the top of the article are those who undertook the bulk of the work, including data analysis and drafting of the manuscript. The remaining authors contribute to different parts of the paper based on their expertise the manuscript,” says Prof.

Prof. Faris considers the study’s findings to be “the most important yet” because of the range of factors and amount of data included in the analysis.

The study was stimulated by the fact that cancer poses a challenging public health threat in Asia. The global and multifaceted study examines the temporal patterns of incidence, mortality, disability and risk factors of 29 cancers over the past three decades.

The authors examine cancer rates in 49 Asian countries from 1990 to 2019. “We studied how many people developed and died from cancer and what the impact was on their quality of life. We also looked at how different factors, such as age and where people live, influence cancer rates.

“This helped us understand how cancer affects different countries. We found that some cancers are linked to certain risk factors. We used this information to see how cancer rates changed over time,” confirms Prof. Faris.

The authors focused on changes in numbers and percentages for cancer incidence and deaths, comparing data from 1990 to 2019. The information they present confirms that the burden of both cancer incidence and mortality increased between 1990 and doubled or more than doubled in 2019.

They find that cancer rates vary widely across Asian countries, with some having much higher rates than others. Certain types of cancer, such as trachea, bronchus and lung cancer, breast cancer, colon and rectal cancer, stomach cancer and prostate cancer, appear to be among the top five cancer types in terms of incidence and mortality rates.

The research reaches many important conclusions. One of them warns that despite medical advances and treatment methods, cancer is increasingly becoming a serious health hazard in Asia.

“With increasing incidence, cancer has become an increasing public health threat in Asia, requiring urgent policy attention and guidance. Its increased risk calls for greater cancer awareness, preventive measures, affordable early-stage detection and cost-effective therapies in Asia,” the authors affirm.

“In conclusion, cancer incidence is increasing across Asia, with mortality rates for a number of cancers having stagnated or fallen over the past three decades. Of the modifiable risk factors, smoking, alcohol consumption and particulate matter pollution remain the dominant risk factors, and the cancer burden due to environmental PM pollution, high body mass index and high fasting plasma glucose has increased, especially between 1990 and 2019.

“Therefore, addressing the increasing burden of cancer in Asia requires effective primary and secondary prevention strategies, along with access to timely and cost-effective screening, diagnostic and therapeutic services.”

More information:
Rajesh Sharma et al., Temporal patterns of cancer burden in Asia, 1990–2019: a systematic review for the Global Burden of Disease 2019 study, The Lancet Regional Health – Southeast Asia (2024). DOI: 10.1016/j.lansea.2023.100333

Provided by the University of Sharjah

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