China raises alert against cancer crisis

Updated: 2014-04-19 20:57


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BEIJING - A week-long campaign was held in Beijing this week to boost public awareness of cancer prevention and control, addressing a growing health crisis the country cannot afford to ignore.

The Cancer Prevention Week, launched by the Chinese Anti-Cancer Association in 1995, falls on April 15 to 21 each year.

This year's campaign urged people to improve disease prevention through a slew of activities, including online interviews, lectures and free physical examinations.

Cancer has been the top killer for Beijingers for seven consecutive years between 2007 and 2013, according to a report released by the municipal commission of health and family planning this week.

The National Cancer Registration Center estimated that about 3.5 million new cases of cancer are diagnosed annually, and 2.5 million die from the disease, said Chen Wanqing, deputy director of the center.

"Although Chinese people's livelihood has improved, cancer incidence and mortality have also been on the rise," he said.

Cancer has grown as a killer in China in past decades.

"In 1964, cancer ranked the fourth-biggest cause of death, while from 1970 to 1989, it ranked second, and data from 2007 showed that it had become the top killer for Chinese," said Yang Gonghuan, former director of tobacco control at the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

Unhealthy lifestyles are partly to blame for the rising incidence. "America has seen reduced lung cancer cases and mortality rate. Tobacco control is one of the main reasons," he said during the ongoing campaign.

Scientific evidence has shown a healthy diet, reduction in smoking and drinking, and regular exercise can help prevent about 40 percent of cancers, according to Beijing City's health and family planning commission.

Yang also pointed out that serious environmental pollution, especially air pollution, is linked to a high incidence of lung cancer.

On the other hand, public awareness of the risk in China remains extremely low. Cheng Shujun, professor of tumor studies with the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences, stressed the importance of regular health checks and early detection of the disease.

"It is urgent to clarify some misunderstandings about cancer prevention and control among the Chinese, who usually spend enormous time and money curing illnesses at advanced stages rather than early on," he said. "Early detection is the best treatment."

"The cancer crisis will continue to rise with a growing and aging population in China. It is an uphill battle for the country and closely related to everyone," Cheng said.