‘Kangri cancer’ cases are on the decline in Kashmir Valley due to increasing awareness among the people about its ill effects and reliance over modern heating appliances.
People in Kashmir widely use ‘kangri’,an earthen fire-pot,to keep themselves warm during winters when the mercury stays below freezing point.
However,the use of this traditional device has led to hundreds of cancer cases.
“Kangri cancer is peculiar to the Kashmir Valley. It is a form of skin cancer and a decade ago it accounted for 50 per cent of cancer cases we treated. But now it is on a decline,” head of department of Radiation Oncology at Sher-i-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences (SKIMS) Dr M Maqbool Lone said.
For decades,kangris have been an integral part of a Kashmiri household with almost the entire population in the Valley relying on them for heating purposes.
The major cause of kangri cancer is the long standing exposure to heat.
“Studies have shown that it is caused by long standing exposure to heat. It is more prominent in the economically-backward strata of society. People from villages and far-flung areas who do not have access to modern heating appliances are the most affected,” Lone said.
Kangri cancer mostly targets the thighs,abdomen and abdominal walls – the areas of the body which are more prone and close to the heat of the kangri. If not cured in time,it can affect other body parts.
Doctors say the increasing awareness and the improvement in the living standards of the people are the major reason for the decline in the cases of kangri cancer.
“We cannot tell people from far-flung areas or those who are not financially well off not to use kangri,because they cannot afford other heating sources in the winter. But we tell them to limit its use,” Lone said.
Cancer Society of Kashmir (CSK),a NGO which works in the the Valley to create awareness about the disease,also agrees that the number of kangri cancer cases has declined considerably.
“The number of new cases (of kangri cancer) have declined over the years because people have reduced the use of kangris and awareness has been created about it,” vice-chairman of CSK Dr Ashiq Hussain Naqshbandi said.
Naqshbandi said there are about 20-25 cases of kangri cancer every year now as compared to hundreds a few decades back.
While the declining use of kangris has resulted in a decline in the cases of cancer,it has also rendered many artisans jobless.
The sales of kangris over the years has dropped by 30 to 40 per cent with the introduction of heaters run on electricity,LPG and kerosene.
“I have stopped using kangris due to several reasons. Preparing the hot kangri was a cumbersome process for women in the household resulting in respiratory problems,” Abdul Majeed,a Srinagar resident said.
Majeed said there have been many instances where kangris have led to fire mishaps in the Valley.