In 2018, lung cancer killed 18,112 women in India with 19,097 new cases diagnosed among them. In Telangana, where cancer cases have sharply increased since 1990, state capital Hyderabad offers a warning sign to women who use tobacco: the majority of lung cancer cases in the city occur among women who smoke.
According to a recent study, 53 percent of women affected by lung cancer in the city are smokers. Meanwhile, in terms of the ratio of lung cancer cases in women compared to men, the gap is closing, having narrowed from 5 : 1 in years past to 2 : 1 at present.
The data “indicates that [the] rise in smoking and exposure to carcinogens is [affecting] the younger [generations] rapidly in the city,” the study said, referring to the fact that lung cancer is affecting those of younger generations than those in older age brackets. The changes in the ratio of female to male lung cancer patients “may be explained by the fact that more and more urban women are now resorting to smoking as a habit,” the research explained.
More than 89 million Indian adults smoke everyday. 1.4 percent of Indian women smoke. However, numbers among some demographics are increasing. It was reported last year that increased number of women in cities were engaging in the habit daily, potentially suggesting that the smoking rise in Telangana fits part of a national pattern.
Telangana has taken steps to curb smoking rates and exposure to secondhand smoke – a major risk factor for lung cancer among non-smokers. Smoking in public places is illegal in Hyderabad, though this policy has been critiqued for a reported lack of implementation.
The latest findings reinforce the need to curb smoking rates, not only in Hyderabad but across Telangana and India. Lung cancer accounts for 7.5 percent of cancer cases in India and ten percent of cancer-related mortality. Addressing risk factors such as smoking are among the ways in which this burden can be eased.