Cancer Now Leading Cause of Death in China
Earth Policy Institute
May 25, 2011
Cancer is now the leading cause of death in China.
Chinese Ministry of Health data implicate cancer in
close to a quarter of all deaths countrywide. As is
common with many countries as they industrialize, the
usual plagues of poverty-infectious diseases and high
infant mortality-have given way to diseases more often
associated with affluence, such as heart disease,
stroke, and cancer.
While this might be expected in China’s richer cities,
where bicycles are fast being traded in for cars and
meat consumption is climbing, it also holds true in
rural areas. In fact, reports from the countryside
reveal a dangerous epidemic of “cancer villages” linked
to pollution from some of the very industries propelling
China’s explosive economy. By pursuing economic growth
above all else, China is sacrificing the health of its
people, ultimately risking future prosperity.
Lung cancer is the most common cancer in China. Deaths
from this typically fatal disease have shot up nearly
fivefold since the 1970s. In China’s rapidly growing
cities, like Shanghai and Beijing, where particulates in
the air are often four times higher than in New York
City, nearly 30 percent of cancer deaths are from lung
cancer. (See data.)
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