Visakhapatnam: For the people of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh, a meal is incomplete without pickle. But the spicy staple, if not chosen carefully, brings with it risks that outweigh the pleasure they provide to the palate.

Consumption of pickles with high salt content increases the risks of stomach cancer, according to Dr P Vijay Anand Reddy, who heads the radiation oncology department at Apollo Cancer Institute in Vizag.

Speaking at the Gastro Oncocon-2019 in Vizag city, Dr Reddy said they have observed that people in their early 30s are now suffering from cancer in AP, Telangana and parts of South India.

“Earlier, it was when people reached 50, they were found to be prone to cancer. Effect of urbanization, food habits [consumption of pickles] and sedentary lifestyle could be the reason for the increase in the number of cancer cases,” he said.

Loss of appetite, weight gain, and bloating and burning sensation in the stomach are some of the early symptoms of stomach cancer, said the top oncologist. “Unfortunately, most of the gastric cancer patients consult the doctor and get diagnosed at Stage-III or IV due to lack of awareness. A simple endoscopy can help detect cancer at an early stage.”

About 1.6 million cancer cases are diagnosed every year across the world. Of which, 1 million suffer from stomach or oesophagus cancer. “Unfortunately, more than 60 percent of them die,” said Dr Reddy.

On the poor dietary habits causing cancer among the people from the Telugu states, Dr Reddy said that one of them is consumption of high sodium and spicy food. “In villages, many are seen eating rice with only pickle. Hot tea and coffee also should be avoided.”

Pickles increase one’s salt intake and this may increase the risk of gastric cancer. “Moreover, increased intake of pickled food may reduce the consumption of fresh vegetables, which may again lead to increased risk of gastric cancer,” he said.

Commenting on the recent parliamentary report that finds the infrastructure required to treat cancer is very poor in the country, Dr Reddy said: “Population-based study shows the doctor and patient proportion is very poor. Radiation machine and cancer hospital must be set up. In 2016-17, the number of cancer cases stood at around 6 lakh, but it has jumped to around 15 lakh in 2018-19.”

He also stressed that chemotherapy and radiotherapy before surgery are the best treatment modalities for cancer patients.

Radiation Oncologist, Dr Suman Das also pointed out oesophagus cancer cases are also going up because of the bad food habits and iron deficiency.

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