Lung cancer ris­ing, but not from smok­ing

Ex­po­sure to PM2.5 sus­pected, though proof re­quires more study, ex­perts say

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - CHINA - By SHAN JUAN shan­juan@chi­nadaily.com.cn

Chi­nese health au­thor­i­ties are try­ing to fig­ure out the rea­son for the rapid rise in a form of lung cancer that de­vel­ops deep in the lung and is not as­so­ci­ated with smok­ing.

China has seen a sharp in­crease in the dis­ease over the past 10 to 15 years, hit­ting groups tra­di­tion­ally not sus­cep­ti­ble such as women and non­smok­ers, said Xue Qi, deputy di­rec­tor of tho­racic surgery at the Cancer Hos­pi­tal Chi­nese Acad­emy of Med­i­cal Sciences, also the coun­try’s Na­tional Cancer In­sti­tute.

“It might be re­lated to the longterm ex­po­sure to air pol­lu­tion, par­tic­u­larly PM2.5,” he said, re­fer­ring to par­tic­u­late mat­ter with a di­am­e­ter of 2.5 mi­crons or less.

China’s top health au­thor­ity has been watch­ing peo­ple’s health in re­la­tion to air pol­lu­tion since 2013, said Mao Qun’an, spokesman for the Na­tional Health and Fam­ily Plan­ning Com­mis­sion.

“We need more re­search over a longer time to fig­ure out the longterm health ef­fects of air pol­lu­tion,” he said. “Cancer is de­vel­oped over a long pe­riod, not overnight.”

Lat­est cancer sta­tis­tics from the gov­ern­ment showed China recorded nearly 4.3 mil­lion new cancer pa­tients in 2015, and more than 730,000 of them had lung cancer, ac­count­ing for nearly 36 per­cent of the world’s to­tal.

There are two ma­jor types of lung cancer — lung ade­no­car­ci­noma and squa­mous cell car­ci­noma, ex­perts said. The lat­ter is closely as­so­ci­ated with smok­ing.

Of newly de­tected lung cancer pa­tients each year, the cases of ade­no­car­ci­noma — in­volv­ing more fe­males and non­smok­ers — have ex­ceeded that of smok­ingre­lated car­ci­noma, even though the smok­ing rate in China has not de­clined, Xue said, cit­ing fig­ures from the na­tion’s cancer reg­istry.

Ten to 15 years ago, squa­mous

We need more re­search over a longer time to fig­ure out the long-term health ef­fects of air pol­lu­tion.”

Mao Qun’an, spokesman for the Na­tional Health and Fam­ily Plan­ning Com­mis­sion

cell car­ci­noma took the lion’s share of all lung cancer cases, roughly 60 per­cent, he said. “At that time, most of the suf­fer­ers were smok­ing males, who are at high risk.”

The in­ci­dence of lung cancer has surged in re­cent decades.

For in­stance, in the 1960s the in­ci­dence of lung cancer i n Guangzhou, Guang­dong prov­ince, stood at 7 per 100,000 peo­ple. That surged to 70 per 100,000 in 2005, ac­cord­ing to lo­cal health data.

Some lung dis­ease ex­perts sus­pect the rise might be re­lated to PM2.5, but more re­search is needed to know for sure.

Xue said more gov­ern­ment re­search fund­ing and projects in the field are needed.

In­ter­na­tion­ally, small-scale stud­ies have as­so­ci­ated air pol­lu­tion ex­po­sure with lung cancer, but a di­rect link has not yet been con­firmed with large, long-term stud­ies, he added.

In­dus­tri­al­ized coun­tries saw a rise in the pro­por­tion of ade­no­car­ci­noma be­fore China, ac­cord­ing to Xue, who said lung ade­no­car­ci­noma is now the most com­mon type of lung cancer.

Squa­mous cell car­ci­noma has de­creased over re­cent decades in Western coun­tries due to an ever de­creas­ing smok­ing pop­u­la­tion, he added.

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