Doctors join forces to cut soaring lung cancer toll

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 01 May, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 01 May, 2012, 12:00am


Doctors dealing with lung cancer on the mainland, the world's largest consumer and producer of tobacco, have set up the first association focused on battling the disease and its causes.

The chairman of the new China Lung Cancer Prevention and Treatment Association, Dr Bai Chunxue, said its goals were to bolster anti-smoking measures and promote the detection of the disease and standardised therapy.

Bai, a leading pulmonary medicine specialist at Shanghai's Zhongshan Hospital, said that while the incidence of lung cancer had dropped steadily in Western countries over the past three decades thanks to their anti-smoking movements, morbidity and mortality had increased rapidly on the mainland.

Among all the deaths caused by cancers on the mainland every year, 22.7 per cent, or about 600,000 people, die of lung cancer, making it the No1 cancer killer, according to a Ministry of Health report released in 2008.

About 700,000 new lung cancer patients are indentified on the mainland each year, two-thirds of whom have missed the optimal timing for surgery and will die within two years, it said.

The World Health Organisation estimates that lung cancer deaths in China may reach one million a year by 2025. The disease is currently responsible for 1.4 million deaths around the world each year.

Bai said an increasing number of young people, especially women, are contracting lung cancer.

He said the association was founded by the government-backed Chinese Society of Respiratory Diseases, a doctors' organisation, and its honorary chairman is Dr Zhong Nanshan , a Guangzhou-based respiratory specialist who won national recognition for his outspokenness in the fight against severe acute respiratory syndrome.

Unlike the respiratory diseases society, which only contains doctors specialising in respiratory ailments, the new association, established in Shanghai on Friday, will also enlist doctors from surgery, tumour and radiology departments who have dealt with lung cancer, Bai said.

'There are multiple methods in treating lung cancer and technologies have improved,' he said. 'Therefore patients' lives have been extended, and many can survive for more than five years. It's necessary to combine expertise from various aspects ... in the therapy of [a] patient.'

The association will hold training sessions around the country on the latest equipment and the diagnosis and treatment of the disease.

Bai said early diagnosis was difficult for a lot of doctors and a study by his hospital found it usually took two to three months of check-ups at different hospitals before a diagnosis was confirmed.

Another key task for the association is health education targeting smokers. Bai said smoking was a principal risk factor for lung cancer. The mortality rate of lung cancer is about 23 times higher in current male smokers and 13 times higher in current female smokers compared to life-long non-smokers.


The proportion of the mainland's population who smoke