Cancer in China kills more than 7,500 people a day, new figures show

National Cancer Centre also estimates 12,000 people a day in China are diagnosed with the disease. Deaths from cancer have risen 74 per cent since 2006, partly because population is ageing

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 27 January, 2016, 2:35pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 27 January, 2016, 3:44pm

More than 7,500 people a day died from cancer in China in 2015, new figures show, and some 12,000 more were diagnosed with the disease each day.

Although mortality rates have decreased significantly since 2006, that’s still a 73.8 per cent increase in the number of cancer deaths over a decade, mainly due to ageing and the growth of the population, say researchers led by Dr Chen Wanqing of the National Cancer Centre in Beijing.

Overall, there were an estimated 4.3 million new cancer cases and more than 2.8 million cancer deaths in China in 2015, with lung cancer the most common cancer and the leading cause of cancer death, according to the report published online on Tuesday in CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians.

With the number of cancer cases and deaths rising, the disease is the leading cause of death in China. Yet the researchers say many of the cancer deaths and diagnoses could be prevented by reducing people’s exposure to known causes of the disease and increasing the effectiveness of medical treatment, particularly for those living in rural areas and in disadvantaged populations.

The largest contributor to avoidable cancer deaths in China is chronic infection, which is estimated to account for 29 per cent of cancer deaths, predominantly from stomach cancer (caused by H. pylori bacteria), liver cancer (from hepatitis B and C viruses), and cervical cancer (caused by human papillomavirus or HPV).

Tobacco smoking accounted for about one-quarter of all cancer deaths in China; yet in 2010 more than half the men in China smoked, and smoking rates in adolescents and young adults are still rising.

Outdoor air pollution, considered to be among the worst in the world, indoor air pollution through heating and cooking using coal and other biomass fuels, and the contamination of soil and drinking water mean that the Chinese population is exposed to many environmental carcinogens.

Chen and colleagues analysed data from 72 local, population-based cancer registries (2009-2011), representing 6.5 per cent of the population. This availability of recent, high-quality data on the Chinese population gives a clearer picture of the state of cancer in the country than in previous years, when estimates of cancer incidence and mortality rates were based on small samples of the population (less than 2 per cent) using data from the 1990s or based on a single year.

Among the key statistics revealed in the new report on the state of cancer in China are:

The top five cancers in men are cancers of the lung, stomach, oesophagus, liver, and colo-rectum, which together account for about two-thirds of all cancer cases.

The top five cancers in women are cancers of the breast, lung and bronchus, stomach, colo-rectum, and oesophagus, accounting for nearly 60 per cent of all cases. Breast cancer alone is expected to account for 15 per cent of all new cancers in women in China.

The five leading causes of cancer deaths among both men and women are cancers of the lung and bronchus, stomach, liver, oesophagus, and colo-rectum, accounting for about three-quarters of all cancer deaths.

Similar to the incidence rates, the mortality rate for all cancers combined is substantially higher in men than in women (165.9 per 100,000 against 88.8 per 100,000) and in rural areas compared to urban areas.

For all cancers, the incidence rates were stable between 2000 and 2011 for males (10.2 per cent per year), whereas they increased significantly, to 12.2 per cent per year among females.

Deaths from cancer since 2006 have decreased significantly both for males (by 21.4 per cent per year) and females (by 21.1 per cent per year). Despite this favourable trend, the number of cancer deaths rose by 73.8 per cent during the corresponding period because of population growth and ageing.