Cancer has emerged as one of the major killer diseases in the state, claiming close to 1,000 lives annually for the last three years. The doctors at the Goa Medical College Hospital and other hospitals handling cancer cases attributed 30 per cent of all cancer cases to the lethal combination of alcohol and tobacco. Breast cancer comes second with 23 per cent. Colorectal cancer, which is owing to consumption of red meat, accounts for 9 per cent of cases. According to Dr R G Wiseman Pinto, professor and head of pathology department at the Goa Medical College Hospital and an expert in cytology, the rising number of cancer cases in the state could be attributed to changes in lifestyle. According to him, oral cancer is one of the most common forms of cancer found in men who are smokers and who consume smokeless tobacco. An increasing number of people eat junk food, drink hard liquor and smoke, which have long-term effects on health.
People have been ignoring warnings about the hazards of drinking and smoking. An increase of nearly a per cent in the use of tobacco products has been observed in Goa during a study conducted by the Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS 2). The figures were released by the Union Ministry of Health And Family Welfare recently. According to authentic figures, at least 100 people died in Goa of the cancer of respiratory and intra-thoracic organs. The state government needs to strengthen its tobacco control efforts in the state. The very fact that combination of alcohol and tobacco has been the cause of 30 per cent of cancer cases in the state should be viewed with concern by the government as well as the citizens at large. There have been studies about prevalence of tobacco abuse in the state, but there are fewer studies on liquor consumption and still fewer on the combined effect of the consumption of both on the health of the consumer. According to medical experts, alcohol consumption causes cancers of the esophagus, pancreas, stomach, kidney, and liver, which are common in Goa and therefore calls for urgent action from the state authorities.
The statistics also reveal that nearly 300 people die of cancer of digestive organs. Quite a few of them could be victims of cancer caused due to junk food. Recently cases of imported fish laced with formalin have posed a new hazard to Goans for whom fish is a staple food. The practice of importing fish preserved using formalin could have been there for years together. Since formalin is known to be a cancer causing agent there are apprehensions that Goans might have suffered due to the deadly toxic chemical. Studies need to be undertaken about the negative impact of formalin in fish on Goans. Many fast food joints have sprung up in the state and Goans consume food there. The ingredients used at these places are hazardous. There is hardly any check on ingredients at these food joints by the food and drugs administration (FDA) authorities. As the state has to spend huge money on providing treatment for cancer patients, the government must take preventive steps to prevent cases of cancer by ensuring that standard ingredients were used in food preparation in restaurants and food joints. There is need to create awareness among people about the ill-effects of eating junk food and consuming liquor and tobacco.
With the number of cases of cancer increasing in the state, the state ought to have cancer treatment facilities so that people do not have to travel distances for treatment. The Centre has sanctioned Rs 50 crore for setting up a Regional Cancer Centre. Though five years have passed since the proposal to set up a cancer treating facility was given approval by the Centre, it is yet to see the light of the day. The government has to focus on creating awareness about cancer and its causes among children through school curriculum so as to ensure that they desist from consuming hazardous food, tobacco and liquor for healthy living. The drive against banned substances like gutkha and smokeless tobacco products should be more vigorous. It is disgusting to note that despite ban on gutkha and other similar products their sale continues unabated. Not only do gutkha and similar products harm people’s personal health; they also cause nuisance and hygiene problems in public as consumers spit all over including on the walls of buildings and other public amenities including roads. Those found violating the ban and using banned substances should be given exemplary punishment to serve as deterrence to others. The authorities should focus on prevention of the cancer rather than treatment.