Lung cancer is the leading cancer amongst men in Kerala despite a ban on smoking in public places and several anti-tobacco awareness campaigns, show the latest estimates by the National Centre for Disease Informatics and Research (NCDIR) of the Indian Council of Medical Research.

What is worrying is that majority men detected with lung cancer are married and almost 30% of them are in the working age group of 45-60. The study, based on four hospital-based cancer registries in the state from 2012 to 2014, also puts the average prevalence rate of the disease at 16%.

“We note a high smoking rate in patients with lung cancer. Only 10 to 15% of them are non-smokers. The average age at which they start smoking is 16-20 and they continue to smoke for 15-20 years,” said Dr V P Gangadharan, leading oncologist and NCDIR scientific advisory committee member.

He said tobacco, like in the rest of the country, continued to be the major cause of cancer for men. “Some ten years ago, oral cancer was the leading cancer amongst men due to tobacco chewing. It is lung cancer now, due to smoking.”

Oncologists said despite the advances in cancer treatment, the problem with lung cancer is that it is mostly detected in the advanced stage, with the cure rate just around 5%. “It is a bad disease with poor outcome. Around 60% of lung cancer patients are in stage IV and the average life span is around 12 months,” said Dr Arun Warrier, consultant medical oncologist, Aster Medcity .

The registries included in the study were from Regional Cancer Centre (RCC), Thiruvananthapuram; Amrita Institute of Medical Sciences (AIMS), Kochi; Malabar Cancer Centre (MCC), Kannur and Caritas Cancer Institute & Caritas Hospital (CCICH), Kottayam.

In the RCC, 15% of the 11,447 men who underwent cancer treatment had lung cancer while it was 11.2% of 6,017 patients in AIMS, 22.9% of 3,934 patients in MCC and 15.7% of 1,659 patients in CCICH. On an average, 90%lung cancer patients in these hospitals were married.