The number of middle-aged mainlanders developing cancerous tumours doubled over the two decades to 2009, a new national report says.
At the same time, the overall frequency and mortality of cancers have both risen, a development mainly ascribed to the ageing population.
The 2012 China Cancer Registry Annual Report, produced by the Ministry of Health's National Cancer Registry Centre, said the prevalence of all kinds of cancers on the mainland was 285.91 cases for every 100,000 people in 2009, compared with 184 cases per 100,000 people in the late 1980s.
About 3.12 million people a year - or 8,550 people a day - were diagnosed with cancers, the report said.
The cancer-caused death rate was 180.54 per 100,000 people in 2009, the report said. It did not specify the mortality rate in the late 80s, saying only that it had kept rising.
Dr Chen Wanqing , the lead author of the report, said last week that it would help the mainland improve cancer prevention and treatment.
"Cancers are complicated and the causes of their existence are not confirmed yet," he said. "But dynamic, year-on-year monitoring data can be an objective base for scientists to do research and for authorities to adjust polices in fighting against cancers."
The report was compiled from data sent by 72 cancer registry centres in 24 provinces and municipalities in 2009.
For people aged between 40 and 44, 154.53 people per 100,000 developed malignant tumours in 2009, double the rate in the late 80s. For every 100,000 people aged between 35 and 39, 87.07 developed malignant tumours.
Chen said the ageing population had pushed the cancer prevalence and mortality rate higher.
"If there was no ageing influence, cancer prevalence and mortality would have remained parallel to the situation in the 80s," he said, adding that the financial burden from cancers was higher than before.
He said while oesophageal and cervical cancers had dropped a lot over recent decades, worsening pollution and unhealthy lifestyles had led to a surge in other cancers, including lung cancer and breast cancer.
Chen also said mainland China's mortality rate from cancers was far higher than in the West. That was because the most common cancers in Western countries were breast cancer and prostate cancer, which had high survivability rates following surgery.
On the mainland the most common cancers were lung, liver and stomach cancers, with only a small percentage of patients surviving.
Another reason the rate was higher than the West is that many mainland patients begin their treatments only when their cancers have reached the middle or terminal stage.