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Health

An Indian Health Minister Just Said Cancer Is 'Caused by Sins' and People Are Outraged

An Indian health minister has said that people get cancer because of “divine justice”, sparking outrage in the country. 

Himanta Biswa Sarma, a health minister from Assam state, blamed the “past sins” of cancer patients for their current suffering. 

He also said people could get diseases like cancer “because of the sins of their parents,” speaking at a public event in Guwahati on Wednesday.

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“God makes us suffer when we sin,” he said, according to the Times of India. “Sometimes we come across young men getting inflicted with cancer or young men meeting with accidents. If you observe the background, you will come to know that it’s divine justice. Nothing else. We have to suffer that divine justice.” 

He added: “In this lifetime or in our previous life, or perhaps my father or mother, perhaps that young man did not do [anything] but his father has done something wrong.” 

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It has infuriated cancer patients, their families, the public, and opposition politicians — who are demanding a public apology for the “unfortunate” comments.

The All India United Democratic Front said the statement was an attempt to “cover his failure to control the spread of cancer in the state.” 

Sarma, a member of India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) later tweeted a clarification which only served to heighten the outrage.

Read more: The 10 Most Chronic Common Diseases All Have This One Thing in Common

It is estimated that the number of new cancer cases in India will grow by 25% by 2020, according to research by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR).

A lack of awareness and testing means that only 12.5% of patients seek treatment in the early stages of the disease, according to the ICMR.

A report by Ernst & Young said lack of awareness is partly to blame for a 5% increase in diagnoses among women in India. Some 2,000 Indian women are diagnosed with a form of cancer every day, according to the report, with 60% detected at a late stage.

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