Cancer Claimed 2.8 Million Deaths in China in 2015

By Daniel Mannering, February 1, 2016

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An estimated 2.8 million people died from cancer in China during 2015, equating to 7,500 people a day, according to a recent study. The report, Cancer Statistics in China, 2015 published in CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians, says that cancer became the leading cause of death in the country as far back as 2010 and concludes that it has become a severe national health epidemic.

Through the use of the National Central Cancer Registry of China (NCCR) established in 2002, the authors of the study were able to analyze data from 72 local population-based cancer registries between 2009 and 2011, representing 6.5 percent of the country’s total population, or around 85.5 million people. That number constituted a sharp rise in coverage compared to earlier studies that could only stretch to numbers roughly below 2 percent. Just 22 registries covering roughly 44.4 million people were used for trend analysis from 2000 to 2011.

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The results indicated that an estimated 4,292,000 new cases of invasive cancer — averaging almost 12,000 a day — and 2,814,000 cancer deaths occurred in China in 2015, with lung cancer both the most common and leading cause of cancer deaths. The study concluded “China faces huge challenges in managing the very large and increasing burden of cancer now and in the future.”

While there are mounting concerns over health and Chinese citizens list pollution as one of their biggest concerns, smoking still remains the leading cause of death. CCTV News reported that Chen Wanqing, lead author of the study and director of the NCCR, told China National Radio that smoking accounted for roughly a quarter of all cancer deaths in China. But Chen also argued that China’s emphasis on smoking control is a good sign to prevent such deaths, adding, "Although air pollution is an important factor that causes lung cancer, it normally takes 10 to 20 years for the correlation to manifest.” The study isn’t without its limitations, however; the sample size only represented under one tenth of the entire population and there are still some questions regarding the quality and validity of the data provided by the local cancer registries.

Speaking directly to That's, leading epidemiologist Richard Peto weighed in stating that in 2010, smoking caused about a million deaths in China (mostly male), of which around 36 percent were cancer related. These figures are likely to double by 2030, owing to population growth and a maturing epidemic, meaning that in 2015, the number of deaths were a remarkable 20 percent higher than in 2010. This equates to there being at least 400,000 cancer deaths a year, which could rise to half a million by 2020.

[Image via Science.psu, BBC]

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