More than 7,500 people die of cancer every day in China while doctors diagnose nearly 12,000 new cases daily, according to a new report that reveals a marked increase in the incidence of the disease.
Nearly 4.22 million new cases were diagnosed in 2015 and cancer was by far the leading cause of death and increasingly a major public health issue, the authors of the report said. About 2.8 million Chinese died of cancer in 2015.
China’s population is nearly 1.4 billion and its healthcare, experts say, needs major reform to ensure treatment and medicines reach people across the country.
“Because of China’s large population size, approximately one-fifth of the world population, these Chinese data contribute significantly to the global burden of cancer: almost 22% of global new cancer cases and close to 27% of global cancer deaths occur in China,” said the report compiled by researchers at the National Cancer Centre in Beijing and published in the US journal CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians.
The report said lung, stomach, oesophagus, liver and colorectal cancers were the most common ones in men, accounting for about two-thirds of all cases.
“Among women, the most common forms were breast, lung and bronchus, stomach, colorectal and oesophagus, accounting for nearly 60% of all cases. Breast cancer alone was estimated to account for 15% of all new cancers in women in China,” it said.
China’s ageing population has contributed to the increasing mortality rate of cancer, though overall death rates have gone down in the country.
“While the mortality rates since 2006 have decreased by about 21% per year for both males and females in China, the number of cancer deaths increased by 73.8% during the same because of the aging and growth of the population,” the report said.
“These latest estimates demonstrate that China faces huge challenges in managing the very large and increasing burden of cancer now and in the future,” it added.
The researchers noted there were three major preventable causes of the disease: chronic infection triggering stomach, liver and cervical cancers, smoking tobacco, and environmental pollution.
China has the largest number of smokers in the world – more than 300 million – and the heavily polluted environment in its cities and towns grabs worldwide headlines.
The report said the risk of cancer that could be attributed to pollution was at a low level but warned the health impact could “be felt for many decades in China, particularly for people in rural areas who are facing very rudimentary living environments”.