Exposure to chemicals is believed to be a factor in China's growing cancer rate. (Photo/CFP)
One person is diagnosed with cancer every six minutes in China, but 60% of the cases are avoidable, reports the microblog of the state-owned China News Service.
According to a report released by the country's national cancer registry at the beginning of the year, China sees an average of around 3.12 million new cancer cases and there are more than 2 million cancer-related deaths every year, despite improvements in living conditions and medical advances.
Yang Gonghuan, former deputy director of the Chinese Center For Disease Control and Prevention, said China's cancer rates have grown much faster than other countries in the last 10 years or so. In 1964, cancer was the fourth-biggest killer in China, but was No. 2 by 1989, Yang said, adding that judging from data between 2007 and 2010, it appears cancer is now China's leading cause of death.
Cancer accounted for one in four deaths in Beijing in 2010, according to the findings of a joint report from the Peking University Cancer Hospital and the Beijing Institute for Cancer Research.
By 2020, the number of new cancer cases in the country every year will reach 4 million, with a total number of around 6 million patients nationwide. The main reasons for the increase are China's aging population and the growing number of young people contracting cancer, the report said, with the most common forms being lung cancer, breast cancer and bowel cancer.
Researchers have described what may be classified as "poor cancer" and "rich cancer" in China. Poor cancer refers to the forms of cancer commonly contracted by people with a lower standard of living and with poor nutrition, especially in rural areas, whereas rich cancer is often linked to excessive consumption of unhealthy food, obesity, lack of exercise and habits such as smoking.
A joint study by the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences and the WHO's International Agency for Research on Cancer determined that around 60% of cancer cases in China are avoidable.
More specifically, according to research leader Qiao Youlin, 65.9% of male cancer cases and 42.8% of female cancer cases could be avoided if the impact of environmental factors — such as diet, pollution, poor work safety, poor food safety and poor nutrition — could be reduced. The numbers show that China has a cancer rate 20% higher than most other countries, reflecting its lack of cancer prevention awareness, Qiao added.
Around 85%-90% of lung cancer cases are related to smoking, while another 20% of deaths are related to diet, nutrition and exercise, said Chen Wanqing, deputy director of the National Cancer Research Office.
Qiao believes environmental pollution may be underestimated as a cancer risk, especially as most members cook and heat their homes with coal and wood, making it difficult to estimate its impact.
The experts concluded that China's growing cancer rate in recent years is an accumulation of factors such as population structure and living habits over decades. In the next 15 years, the number of overweight and obese cancer patients will likely double, while the number of alcohol-related cancer will also increase, they said.
Yang Gonghuan 楊功煥
Qiao Youlin 喬友林
Chen Wanqing 陳萬青
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