caner1 In an isolated ward of Kashmir’s one of the larg- est government run hos- pitals, 54-year-old Ashraf Ali Khan is finding it hard since the past eight days to sleep properly. His 15-year-old son, Asif Ashraf is sitting on a bench nearby the bed- staring at his ailing father with the questionable look. Asif has not been informed by his family that his father is suffering from potentially terminal disease- cancer, that too of its last stage. He has notion of his father suffering from fever which merits his admit- tance in the hospital for sometime. Ashraf Ali, a carpenter by pro- fession went to the doctor eight months earlier after witnessing non-stop coughing.

         He was asked to go for a chest X ray which made doctor to get Ashraf further examined. After series of tests, it was finally revealed to Ashraf’s family that he is suffering from the lung cancer.”Medicos say it is the last stage and uncurable. He would hardly be alive for one or two months,” Ashraf’s brother Abdul Aziz says amid sobs. Ashraf is not alone who is suffer- ing from such a dreadful disease. In a war torn Kashmir, a new threat of cancer has began to loom large with around 4000 cases of the terminal disease found every year in this himaliyan region. Apart from the political uncertainty which so far has claimed thousands of precious lives, experts says there are 20 percent rise in cancer cases in Kashmir with figures refusing to go down with each passing day. Furthermore, as per the latest data, made public by the state’s health department, Kashmir tops in the list of cancer cases in India.

           The data available with the state health department reveals that in the past three years, more than 1700 people have died due to cancer in Kashmir. It says that since January 2014, there were 12091 patients who were detected with cancer at various hospitals of the state. In 2013, 6,300 patients were detected with the killer disease. The top 10 cancers taking toll in Kashmir, according to the medical experts, are Lung cancer, Stomach, Colon (large intestine cancers), Breast, Brain, Esophagus (cancer of food pipe), Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, Gastro Esophageal, Junction cancer (cancer between the stomach and food pipe), Ovary and Skin cancers.

Data reveals that in the past three years, more than 1700 people have died due to cancer in Kashmir. It says that since January 2014, there were 12091 patients who were detected with cancer at various hospitals of the state. In 2013, 6,300 patients were detected with the killer disease.

         cander2Experts say the cancer mortality rate among the people in Kashmir had witnessed a sharp increase due to some leading behavioural and dietary risks, including high body mass index, low fruit and vegetable intake, lack of physical activity, tobacco use and lack of regular check- up. Changing life style, environmental degradation and changing food habits are the reasons attributed to the surge in all the cancers especially in Esophagus, Colon and Breast cancers. Kashmir’s leading oncologist Mohammad Maqbool Lone says the situation in Kashmir is becoming grim everyday after with highest number of lung cancers found in the people of Kashmir. “The situation is indeed alarming in Kashmir.

            There are patients hailing from every part of Kashmir including the far flung ar- eas which are diagnosed with such terminal disease,” says Lone. Till date, no single factor has been identified as the main cause of the rising cancers in Kashmir as com- pared to other regions of India. As the health experts in Kashmir are not certain about the major causes for the rise in this deadly disease, they suspect three main components can trigger the rise of cancer in this Himalayan region. One is societal component with poor, rural lifestyle and general deprivation, status in particular in vitamins and oligoelements. Second reason of rising cancers in Kashmir is a lifestyle component with the use of copper utensil in cooking, the consumption of spicy, deep fried foodstuffs, and the drinking of hot salty tea which is at large being consumed in every home in Kashmir.

          The third fact being attributed by the studies to the rising cancer cases is an environmental component with exposure to high levels of dietary nitrosamines from diverse sources. Overall, these three components are similar to the general pattern of factors that have been involved in causing esophageal and other cancers. Oncologist Abdul Rashid Lone says that the rising smoking habits have given rise to lung cancers in Kashmir. He also claims that it is the detection rate also which has in- creased in Kashmir besides the advancement in the medical technologies. “Earlier, most of the cancer cases in Kashmir used to go unnoticed. At present, the technology has advanced much that a patient can be diagnosed with the disease. This is the main reason that today we say cancer cases rise in Kashmir,” Dr Rashid Lone said.

            The top 10 cancers taking toll in Kashmir, according to the medical experts, are Lung cancer, Stomach, Colon (large intestine cancers), Breast, Brain, Esophagus (cancer of food pipe), Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, Gastro Esophageal, Junction cancer (cancer between the stomach and food pipe), Ovary and Skin cancers.

      Till date, no single factor has been identified as the main cause of the rising cancers in Kashmir as compared to other regions of India. As the health experts in Kashmir are not certain about the major causes for the rise in this deadly disease, they suspect three main components can trigger the rise of cancer in this Himalayan region.