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indian research on gallbladder cancer, the disease with a very high incidence in north India, is ignoring the most crucial aspect of prevention, a recent meeting revealed. On April 23-24, 2005, the Institute of Medical Sciences (ims) , Banaras Hindu University, held a meeting of experts at Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh, to discuss the direction of future research in the field.

The Union government-controlled Indian Council of Medical Research (icmr), which funds research projects, also participated in the meet. It was icmr's reports of population based cancer registries under the national cancer registry programme that established the higher prevalence of the disease in north India. But during the meeting, not many projects were actually discussed due to the fear of theft of intellectual property rights. The few that were tabled centred around diagnosis and treatment, with little attention to prevention. A possible reason behind the oversight could be the fact that diagnosis and treatment are more lucrative. Experts, meanwhile, say prevention is crucial to checking the disease. Research has linked gallbladder cancer to faulty diet, obesity, environmental pollution, gallstones, infections such as typhoid and susceptible genes.

The 1997-1998 national cancer registry report said the age adjusted incidence rate (aar) of gallbladder cancer in Delhi women was 9.8, the world's highest. Delhi men had an aar of 3.8, the fourth highest in the world. But the disease didn't figure in the ten most common cancers in south India. It was totally absent in the women of Barshi, Maharashtra, which represents rural India in the cancer registry programme.

Studies have indicated that higher consumption of heavy metals, pesticides, aflatoxins and nitrates through the polluted water of river Ganga could be the culprit in north India. Unconfirmed links have been suggested with the consumption of certain pulses, mustard oil and sattu (ground gram) while filter coffee is suspected to have preventive effects, which could be responsible for shielding south India. "There is a need to understand the areas where this cancer is common, study the kind of food...the lifestyle...and other details

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