China’s Environmental Costs: Cancer

While attending the JUCCCE conference last year, I began to understand that when looking at clean technologies, or otherwise making the case for “sustainability”, it was important to understand the health costs to remaining brown.

That in the end, policy makers and agency officials would eventually connect the dots and begin making investments into sustainability as the costs of their health care budget increased.

Cancer care in China: A general review, from Biomedical Imaging and Intervention Journal, is an article I found as part of some personal research.  Its purpose is really to look at the options of cancer care, however the first few pages hold some very interesting information on the size of China’s cancer population, and how the environmental changes in China are impacting the rates of cancer within the Chinese population.

As can be seen in the tables (click to enlarge), as China has developed over the last 30 years, its rates of cancer have increased significantly, and the types of cancer have changed as well.

Case in point, lung cancer is now at the top of the pile, and has moving up since 1970.  According to the report authors, the reasons for this are:

  • Lack of awareness of lung cancer
    Lack of effective screening tools for early detection. Approximately 80% of lung cancers
  • in China are advanced stage disease at the diagnosis
  • Lack of access to health care
  • Lack of health insurance and resources
  • Lack of scientifically sound comprehensive care. It is estimated that about one-third of lung cancer patients may have died from inadequate or inappropriate therapies in China.

Where all this is important for me, and why I believe it will be important for policy makers to fully understand this is simple.  Accounting for the full impact of environmentally related health issues should become part of the equation when looking at options Green vs. Brown.

While clearly a difficult calcuation to make, even the worst underestimations would be an improvement from the current model, and with internal agencies already admitting that birth defects are rising as a result of the degraded environmental cnditions… it hopefully will not take that long.

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