Throughout the world, cancer remains a leading cause of death. All told, more than six million people around the globe die of the disease each year. Cancer has become a particular concern in China, where the mortality rate from the disease has been on the rise. In fact, some 1.5 million people in China died of cancer in the year 2000.
For Chinese men, the most common form of cancer is cancer of the stomach, followed by liver cancer, cancer of the oesophagus, lung cancer, and intestinal cancers. Stomach cancer is also most common for women, followed by uterine, oesophagus, lung, and liver cancer.
An Increase in Western Cancers
Because of the increase in economic development in China, it appears that the nation is witnessing an increase in cancers most common in the West. As a result, the incidence of breast, prostate, and colorectal cancers in China is expected to rise exponentially. This stands to reason, given the fact that such cancers have increased a great deal in Taiwan and Hong Kong as those nations have modernized.
In an effort to stem the cancer tide, the Chinese Anti-Cancer Association is screening a million Chinese women over six years. The project is designed to help save lives through early detection.
Cancers in China also appear to vary by geography. For the most part, cancer is most prevalent in East China, North China, and Northwest China. Cancer is decidedly less common in South China, Southwest China, and Northeast China. It has been said that the highest cancer mortality rate occurs in the city of Shanghia and in the provinces of Jaingsu, Fujian, and Zhejiang.
For cancer of the oesophagus in particular, the worst mortality rate occurs in North China, specifically the Henan, Hebei, and Shanxi provinces. It appears that, in the outer reaches of these provinces, the mortality rate is less severe than in the inner reaches. There is some indication that oesophagus cancer may be linked to nitrites, although the evidence is not conclusive.
The Tobacco Factor
Because of widespread tobacco use in China, cases of lung cancer in the nation are expected to increase significantly. Currently, China is home to some 320 million smokers--in fact, it's considered to be the smoking capital of the world. By the year 2025, as many as two million Chinese residents may die of lung cancer and other tobacco-related diseases each year.
Other Risk Factors
There are additional environmental factors which may contribute to the increase in cancer in China. For instance, an upsurge in the Hepatitis B infection may be responsible for the high incidence of liver cancer in the Asian nation. And stomach cancer may be exacerbated by the Chinese diet of high-salt fermented food and unsanitary food storage procedures.
Examining Oesophageal Cancer In-Depth
Because of the prevalence of cancer of the oesophagus in China, it only makes sense that researchers would take a closer look at ways the Chinese might be able to cut their risk for this form of cancer.
A research team at the Harbin Medical College in China decided to zero in on the factors leading to oesophageal cancer in northeast China. In an article entitled, "Risk Factors for Oesophageal Cancer in Northeast China," J. Hu and his research team document a hospital-based study of oesophageal cancer in the Heilongjiang Province.
It should be pointed out that this province is actually a low-risk area for this form of cancer. However, from May of 1985 to May of 1989, dozens of cancer patients were interviewed in the wards of several major hospitals for the purpose of the study.
Serious Risk Factors
The research team gathered evidence relating to diet, socio-economic status, incidence of smoking, and alcohol use. Not surprisingly, the researchers found that smoking and alcohol consumption appeared to be significant risk factors for cancer of the oesophagus. Those people who had smoked handmade cigarettes were at the greatest risk.
Reducing the Risk
The Chinese researchers found that there were demonstrated ways that people could reduce their risk of developing oesophageal cancer. For instance, eating a greater amount of fruits and vegetables lowered oesophageal cancer risk by 35 percent. By the same token, upping vitamin C intake by 100 mg reduced the risk of cancer of the oesophagus by 39 percent.
The researchers also found that using salt did not seem to increase the risk for oesophageal cancer. Likewise, foods preserved in salt and pickled vegetables offered no heightened risk.
Combating Cancer Over the Long Term
Treating cancer of the oesophagus and other cancers is a particular challenge in China and the rest of the developing world. That's because the cancers tend to be discovered late when the chances of successful treatment are much lower. Treatment may also be difficult because the nation's pain medications tend to be less effective than those found in the West. As a result, groups such as the American Cancer Society are working to improve the quality of life for Chinese cancer patients, particularly in the area of pain medication.