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Esophageal cancer death rate rising in Taiwan: doctor

2012/10/20 21:35:51

Taipei, Oct. 20 (CNA) The esophageal cancer death rate in Taiwan is rising despite a falling trend elsewhere in the Asia-Pacific region, a doctor said Saturday.

Esophageal cancer death rates in China, Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong, Singapore, the Philippines, the United States and Australia have been falling since 1990, said Tseng Ping-huei of Taipei's National Taiwan University Hospital, citing World Health Organization data of 2009.

However, the death rate from the cancer in Taiwan has risen from 7/100,000 to 10/100,000 since 1990, Tseng said at the launch of a support group for esophageal cancer patients at the Taipei hospital.

Lee Jang-ming, chief of Thoracic Surgery Division at the Taipei hospital, said the death rate of male esophageal cancer sufferers in Taiwan is rising, reflecting the increasing consumption of betel nuts.

"Eating 10 betel nuts a day for 10 years doubles the chance of developing esophageal cancer," Lee said.

"People who smoke a pack of cigarettes a day for 10 years are two to three times more likely to develop esophageal cancer," he added.

Therefore, people that eat betel nuts and smoke will increase their chances of developing esophageal cancer by between 20 and 60 percent, Lee said.

Moreover, esophageal cancer patients in Taiwan are dying at a younger age, averaging around 58 years old, Lee said.

The youngest patients to die from esophageal cancer in Taiwan are mostly in the 25-29 age bracket.

Many of the participants at the launch event said they developed the habit of smoking or eating betel nuts when they were young and began noticing a difficulty in swallowing and abdominal pain when they reached middle age.

An affected person who has great difficulty swallowing, a painful throat or a coarseness of voice has passed the early stage of the disease, and can only be treated with surgery, chemotherapy or radiation, according to Lee and Tseng.

Meanwhile, a joint study by the Taipei hospital and Kaohsiung-based E-Da Hospital shows that esophageal cancer sufferers have a 10-percent chance of developing a second head and neck cancer.

(By Chen Ching-fang and Scully Hsiao)