Kashmir Cancer Alarm
By Sheikh Umar Ahmad
29 March, 2016
The Cancer incidences in Kashmir have raised to an alarmingly unstoppable situation with experts sensing a cancer catastroph in the next coming decade. The unprecedent rise in Cancer cases this year & doubling since last eight years send message down to experts and administrators to find causes and to curb this growing concern in the valley. This situation is taking all by a surprise with more and more people being diagonosed with one or the other form of Cancer.
The growing incidence in Kashmir has failed to move the successive government’s of Jammu & Kashmir as infrastructure for diagonosis and treatment has remained abysmally poor over the past one decade, according to medicos and patients (Greater Kashmir report, 20-03-2016). The Regional Cancer Center at SK institute of Medical Sciences (SKIMS) at Soura happens to be the only dedicated Cancer treatment facility with number of patients swelling every year which stretchs the RCC facility for diagonosis, management and treatment beyond limits focing many patients to seek treatment in the private sector outside the state which acts as a money minting tool to the out established hospitals. As per the official comments, a minor malignancy takes almost three months for surgery which ultimately leads to development of metastatic tumors, due to over proliferation and fast dividing nature of cancer cells as most patients can’t afford to move outside due to poor economies.
Of all the Cancers registered, Gastro-intestinal malignancies have the highest occurance accounting for over 30% cancer’s in the Kashmir. The experts at Valley’s lone Tertiary care hospital claiming that consumption of high salt content ( including salted tea and infection with Helicobacter Pyroli bacteria could be the possible reason for the high incidences of this cancer. Besides this they have also argued that the high incidence rate of CRC (Colorectal Cancer) has been associated with food habits and changing life style patterns. In addition some dyes used in industrial makeups have been thought as human Carcinogens. The high incidence of GI tract malignancies have been linked to heavy metal contaminations in soil, water, vegetables, fruits etc but but we are not sure about it’s prognosis due to slow research collaboration in this field.
Apart from “killer foods”, Kashmiri markets are flooded with cooking oils and milk laced with dangerous additives and adulterants such as detergents, a trend that experts believe is creating a health catastroph. In reality, according to the sources, no tests are conducted to check the dangerous adulterations. All these chemicals are proven to be carcinogenic in nature or are suspected to be so. Food safety officers spare sellers of adultered milk on payment of Rs 500 as fine. Corruption has marred the very fabric of transparency and accountability in state. Srinagar’s lone food testing laboratory lacks equipment, infrastructure and manpower with no mechanisms in place to check pesticides, dangerous metals in water and food, again putting the health care system in the state at the back burner. In 2002, a survey by FSSAI had revealed that 80 % of milk sold in Jammu & Kashmir contained adulterants. The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), in one of it’s reports, said detergents are a cause of food poisoning and Gastro-intestinal complications. Other common additives to milk impair the functioning of various organs of the body, causes Heart problems & Cancer.
So, if we take this grimmimg situation into consideration, we can only conclude that it is official mismanagement and negligence that is indirectly responsible for this worsening situation. Lack of diagonostic facilities, lack of manpower, lack of proper food safety standards and malpractised administrative strategies add to this serious cause. Little research is conducted to check the role of various heavy metal contamination in foods and water which lead to unawareness among the general masses due to non-dissemination of authentic knowledge at the grassroot level. Use of pesticides and fungicides by Apple orchardists in valley which has been linked in the past to various brain tumors and neurodegenerative diseases has been given little or no eye.
In recent past, the outbreak of Hepatitis C at Kokernag area of Anantnag District has been confirmed to be due to contaiminated drinking water supply. Despite the report coming in news, no action has been taken against the Public Engineering Department amid false promises.
Whether it is food adulteration, changing life style patterns, lack of diagonostic & treatemnt facilities in the Valley that had added to the rising deadly diseases, it is more precisely the administrative mismanagement that has paved way to all these corruptive assemblies and establishments. So, need of the hour is to channelize a proper Research collaboration as to find the role of all the presumed causes of rising Cancer incidences and other diseases that have swindled in the Valley over years of mal-administration and corruption. Every time state government takes action once the cause has rooted deep down to it’s logical end. Though It is never too late, taking suo-moto cognizance of Greater Kashmir reports and treating those as Public Interest Litigation (PIL), the High Courts decision to investigate the rising concern is a welcome move and hope that it will turn some papers to the best interest of state subjects.
Author is working at CSIR - Indian Institute of Integrative Medicine Jammu as Medical Research Scholar,