A remark by Kaohsiung Mayor Han Kuo-yu (韓國瑜), the Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) presidential candidate, about the number of deaths from lung adenocarcinoma rising significantly last year was misleading, Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中) said yesterday.
Han, in a televised policy presentation on Friday evening, said that more than 14,000 people last year died of lung adenocarcinoma — 50 percent of whom did not smoke cigarettes — and that the mortality rate is increasing by 7 percent per year.
Han cited the figures in his criticism of the Democratic Progressive Party administration’s energy policies.
However, Chen said that 9,338 people last year died of lung cancer, with lung adenocarcinoma accounting for 70 percent.
“The figure that Han cited in the policy presentation was almost twice the actual number — a complete error,” Chen said.
From 2009 to last year, the standardized rate of lung cancer mortality dropped from 25.9 deaths per 100,000 to 22.8 deaths per 100,000, Chen said, adding: “That is a decline of 12 percent, not an increase of 7 percent.”
Early detection of lung cancer — at stage 0 or stage 1 — has increased to 25.7 percent, while the five-year survival rate increased to 27.3 percent in 2016 — both significant improvements, Chen said.
“He [Han] did not work hard at remembering the correct figures and even gave a number that was far from the truth,” Chen said.
“The five-year survival rate significantly increased and the mortality rate is falling, so where did the claim of ‘a 7 percent annual increase in the mortality rate’ come from?” Chen said. “I should not be sitting here [as minister of health] if the rate is growing by 7 percent per year.”
Cancers are typically caused by long-term exposure to carcinogens, so the current rate of lung cancer reflects causes from about 10 years ago, Chen said.
While air pollution is a main risk factor for lung cancer, the average PM2.5 (particulate matter smaller than 2.5 micrometers) concentration in Taiwan dropped from 20.6 micrograms per cubic meter in 2016 to 16 micrograms per cubic meter last year — a considerable improvement, he said.
The prevalence rate of smoking has also dropped, from 14.5 percent in 2017 to 13 percent last year, he added.
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