Tue, Jun 15, 2004 - Page 2 News List

Cancer still top killer

By Chiu Yu-Tzu  /  STAFF REPORTER

Cancer remains the nation's No.1 killer, but increasing numbers of Taiwanese are dying from diabetes while pneumonia fatalities increased by about 10 percent, the Department of Health said yesterday.

The department's report on causes of death last year shows that the average lifespan of male and female Taiwanese has lengthened by roughly a month, with men living to an average age of 73.35 years and women to the age of 79.05. Health officials took the occasion of the report's release to stress the importance of a balanced diet and regular exercise in achieving longevity.

Cancer led the list for a 22nd consecutive year, killing 35,201 people and accounting for about 27.1 percent of fatalities. On average, cancer claims a life in Taiwan about every 14 minutes.

The ranking of top 10 causes of death in 2003 remained the same as in 2002, with cancer followed in order by stroke, heart disease, diabetes, accidents, chronic liver disease, pneumonia, kidney disease, suicide and hypertension-related diseases.

Yet officials said that both diabetes and pneumonia have become more threatening.

Health agency Director-General Chen Chien-jen (陳建仁) said yesterday that the increased mortality from pneumonia could be attributed to SARS cases early last year.

"To effectively prevent the occurrence of diabetes, people should take both a balanced diet and regular exercise seriously," he said.

In terms of cancer, liver cancer remained the most fatal variant of malignancy in Taiwan, followed in order by lung cancer, colorectal cancer, female breast cancer, stomach cancer, cervical cancer, oral cancer, prostate cancer, non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and pancreatic cancer. Most ranked the same as in 2002, but deaths associated with female breast cancer, oral cancer and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma increased.

Top killers of 2003

Top 10 causes of death in 2003

1. Cancer

2. Stroke

3. Heart disease

4. Diabetes

5. Accidents

6. Chronic liver disease

7. Pneumonia

8. Kidney disease

9. Suicide

10. Hypertension-related disease

Top 10 cancers in 2003

(ranked by numbers of deaths)

1. Liver

2. Lung

3. Colorectal

4. Breast (female)

5. Stomach

6. Cervical

7. Oral

8. Prostate

9. Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma

10. Pancreatic


According to Lin Shio-jean (林秀娟), director-general of the department's Bureau of Health Promotion, Taiwanese men are most subject to liver, oral and stomach cancers, while women are most at risk from breast and cervical cancers.

"We suggest that women over 50 take mammograms every two to three years," Lin said.

Officials said the increased incidence of female breast cancer could be attributed to an increasingly Westernized diet and higher fat intake. However, men have a much higher risk of cancer mortality in general, with 1.7 times more men than women dying of cancer last year. Officials said these deaths could be blamed in part on men's habits of chewing betel nuts, smoking and drinking.

Lin said the government's cancer-fighting efforts in the next five years will focus on promoting healthy diets. Chen also announced yesterday that NT$700 million would be spent on a nationwide program to prevent suicides. Last year, suicide was the third leading cause of death for Taiwanese between the ages of 15 and 44, and for the last seven years suicide has been a top-10 cause of death.

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