Ultra-processed food, sedentary lifestyle fuelling cancers in Indians under 40: Doctors

New Delhi: Poor lifestyle choices with regular consumption of ultra-processed foods, and a sedentary lifestyle are increasing cancer cases among people under 40 years of age in India, said doctors on Sunday.

Several factors are contributing to the rise in cancer cases among younger people in India.

One of the primary reasons is increased consumption of processed foods, tobacco, and alcohol, sedentary lifestyles, obesity, and stress.

Environmental pollution is another critical factor.

India’s cities are plagued by high levels of pollution, which has been linked to various types of cancer.

Air and water pollution expose individuals to carcinogenic substances, significantly increasing their cancer risk.

“Ultra-processed foods and sedentary lifestyles are emerging as significant contributors to the rising cancer rates among young Indians.

“The high intake of these foods, laden with unhealthy additives, combined with physical inactivity, is creating a health crisis,” Dr. Rahul Bhargava, Director and head of the Department of Haematology and BMT at Fortis Memorial Research Institute told IANS.

“It’s imperative to adopt healthier dietary habits and an active lifestyle to curb this alarming trend,” he added.

According to a recent study by Cancer Mukt Bharat Foundation, a Delhi-based non-profit foundation, 20 per cent of cancer cases in India are now being diagnosed in people below 40 years of age.

The study shows that men constitute 60 per cent of these young cancer patients, while women make up the remaining 40 per cent.

The gender disparity may be due to higher rates of tobacco use, occupational exposure, and lifestyle choices among men in India.

“In our country, escalating rates of obesity, change in dietary habits, specifically the increase in consumption of ultra-processed food, and sedentary lifestyles are associated with higher cancer rates,” said Dr. Ashish Gupta, principal investigator and senior oncologist at Unique Hospital Cancer Center, Delhi, told IANS.

The doctors called for the urgent need for lifestyle interventions to combat the rising cancer rates among young Indians. Dr. Ashish, also heading Cancer Mukt Bharat Campaign in India, emphasised the importance of a “combined effort from the government, healthcare professionals, and the community to tackle the rising cancer rates among young adults”.

“Policies promoting clean air and water, regular physical activity, and access to nutritious food must be prioritised. Additionally, we must invest in better healthcare infrastructure to ensure timely diagnosis and treatment,” he said.



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