More than four million people in China were diagnosed with cancer in 2015, according to the American Cancer Journal of Clinicians. That year, the disease killed three million people in China.
Cancer rates in China have increased by 50 percent in the last decade, with most cases coming from the country’s coal and steel-producing provinces. In some industrial provinces, lung cancer rates have four-folded.
A man from the coal-producing province of Shanxi told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation that his wife got lung cancer by working in the railways. He wished to remain anonymous,
“The reason is the work environment and the air pollution, she had no cover,” he said. “At night if you use a torch, you can see it best, the air is full of small particles, if you work indoors there’s less chance of getting cancer,” he said.
Cancer is China’s leading cause of death with most of the death toll being attributed to lung cancer.
As cancer rates have spiked in China during the last decade, so has air pollution.
“The international agencies on research on cancers and the World Health Organization have already classified air pollution and PMP 2.5 particles as class one carcinogens,” said Dong Liansai from Greenpeace East Asia said.
Chinese academics cited exposure to pollution as a risk factor for lung cancer in their report published by the American Cancer Journal for Clinicians.
Although Chinese media is becoming more transparent when it comes to air pollution reports, it still sometimes censors or buries such stories. Some Chinese cancer specialists and doctors still refuse to speak with foreign media on the subject.
China has also been slow to address pollution or even cancer. Hundreds of patients walk through the doors of the Cancer Institute and Hospital in central Beijing each day. Some wait months for appointments.