An alarming statistic emerging from the Mumbai Cancer Registry indicates that Parsis are at a higher risk of getting cancer than those from other communities.
According to the registry, which is a unit of the Indian Cancer Registry, a higher number of Parsis, especially women, had cancer as compared to others. The reason: high life expectancy, delayed marriages and delayed childbirth.
The data compiled by the Mumbai Cancer Registry till 2008 states that 122 Parsi males per 1,00,000, and 178 Parsi females per 1,00,000, had various types of cancer. “The incidence was much less among other communities,” said Dr BB Yeole, director, Mumbai Cancer Registry.
Among Hindus, the number was 75 males and 97 females; Muslims, 66 males and 73 females; Christians, 85 males and 81 females per 1,00,000. The registry is currently compiling data for 2009.
According to Yeole, the findings can be attributed to food habits, lifestyle and life expectancy of Parsis. “Most Parsis are non-vegetarians, marry very late and have very high-life expectancy, increasing their chances of getting cancer,” Yeole said.
The data was complied by the registry from more than 100 hospitals within Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation limits.
Dr Mandar Nadkarni, consultant breast surgeon, Kokilaben Hospital, said, “We have observed that Parsi women have higher incidence of breast cancer. The trend is mainly because they get married very late and thus childbirth is also delayed.”
In women, giving birth after 30, doubles the chances of breast cancer. Breastfeeding for less than one year is also said to be one of the causes of breast cancer. “Also, due to their high life expectancy, the chances of getting cancer automatically increase with age,” Nadkarni added.
The Tata Memorial Hospital is currently in the process of compiling a detailed study on Parsis and cancer, and is also looking at genetic factors as contributors.