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Perils of Industrialization Increases Risk of Cancer

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Pollution Causing cancer

Perils of Industrialization Increases Risk of Cancer

Dr. Meenu Walia
Director-Medical Oncology & Haematology
Medical Oncology, Cancer Care / Oncology

The Big-C brings with it a sense of gloom and despair. It is the “Emperor of all Maladies” as it has elbowed itself from a dreaded disease to the worst of its kind.  The environmental factors like air pollution, lack of greenery, polluted water bodies are triggering the growth of cancer. Researchers studied that out of a thousand mummies from Egypt and South America, only a handful of them suffered from cancer, whereas the number of cases today are at a staggering count of nearly one in three deaths. There is strong evidence available that shows high pollution levels caused by industries are worsening the condition. Studies in China have shown how rapid industrialization has led to deterioration of water and increase in digestive cancer death rate by 9.7%.  

What is Industrialization Doing?

Environmental pollution is responsible for causing several types of cancer. With a rapid industrial growth, there has been an increase in infrastructural facilities. The high level of chemical fumes pollutes the air and chemical waste discharged from the factories gets deposited in the rivers or under the soil, thereby impacting the ground or river water.

Cancers indicate the presence of carcinogens in the ground water and polluted air. Nitrates in drinking water can transform to mutagenic N-nitroso compounds that increases the risk of leukemia, lymphoma, colorectal and bladder cancer.

For instance, Outdoor air pollution by carbon particles associated with Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs); indoor air pollution by environmental tobacco smoke, formaldehyde and volatile organic compounds such as benzene and 1,3-butadiene; food pollution by food additives and by carcinogenic contaminants such as nitrates, pesticides, dioxins and other organochlorines; carcinogenic metals and metalloids; pharmaceutical medicines; and cosmetics are just some examples of every day pollutants that we live and breathe in.

Know the Next Step?

Delhi has been declared as the most polluted city in the world by World Health Organization (WHO) with an annual average of 153 micrograms of small particulates. This is considered to be serious and can lead to respiratory and other serious health issues. Industrialization is taking its toll and the local residents are paying a price for it. The need of the hour is to:

- Spread awareness about cancer screening. Have strict guidelines for industries that are causing pollution and a regular check to be conducted for miscreants.

- The waste discharge should be guided through a waste management programe to reduce the potential risk of impurities, which will further reduce the risk of carcogenic spreading in the environment.

- Regular health monitoring regulation of the local inhabitants living in industrial areas

- Reporting abnormalities regarding any health issues to the health department for swift and meaningful action

- Regular screening will help in detecting the disease, while it is still asymptomatic and in earlier stages