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Cancer burden in Vietnam: P2 – The culprits

Monday, December 14, 2015, 08:08 GMT+7

Causes of cancer may range from exposure to toxic chemicals, environmental pollution to viruses.

>> Cancer burden in Vietnam – P1: Liabilities

According to Tran Van Thuan, head of the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Vietnam, between 150,000 and 200,000 new cases of cancer are recorded annually in Vietnam.

More than 80 percent of those are triggered by exposure to outside elements.

Thuan pointed out that smoking constitutes over 30 percent of cancer cases, particularly lung cancer.

The insidious practice, either in the active or passive form, has also increased the risk of bladder, hypopharyngeal, oral cavity, breast and cervical cancers, Thuan added.

Linked to eating, drinking habits, unsafe and improper nutrition accounts for over 30 percent of cancer causes, he noted.

Improper nutrition involves a diet rich in fat, particularly animal fat, and protein but deficient in vegetables and fruits.

Consumption of food tainted with harmful chemicals including preservatives and lean-meat agents is also to blame.

Digestive cancer and breast cancer are closely associated with these factors.

Another culprit is a detrimental working environment, which involves exposure to insecticides, X-rays, and sun glare at midday, the expert stressed.

These elements are to blame for skin and thyroid gland cancer.

Meanwhile, 10 percent of cancer cases are linked to genetics.

Thuan found unsafe and improper dieting the lead cause.

Drinking too much beer, eating moldy food or downing fried or grilled dishes with fatty oil may increase exposure to dangerous carcinogens.

In addition, eating meals full of salt also augments the risk of cancer.

Pham Xuan Da, head of the National Institute for Food Control, pointed to multi-pollution, meaning vegetables and fruits may contain residues of as many as four preservatives and plant protection chemicals.

Total contents often easily exceed the allowable level compared to residues adopted in isolation.


Vang O, a toxic substance, is found being put into animal feed. Photo: Tuoi Tre

Over the past seven months, competent agencies have found seven local animal feed producers using banned chemicals including lean-meat agents and Vang O, a substance used in construction and fabric dying, whose insidious effects linger from one generation to the next and have proved cancerous to lab animals.

Associate Professor Nguyen Duy Thinh, a food technology expert, underlined that the more alien chemicals penetrate humans from their environment, food and drinks, the higher the rate of cancer is.

Once inhaled, contaminated air causes respiratory cancers, while alien substances consumed while eating and drinking penetrate blood vessels, thus adversely affecting cells and triggering more types of the deadly disease.

Alien substances include nitrosamines, used in the manufacture of some cosmetics, pesticides, and in most rubber products; and acrolein, which is mainly utilized as a biocide and a building block to other chemical compounds.    

Infection-related cancer

A report named “Current Knowledge of Cancer and Infection,” which was conducted and presented by a group of doctors from Ho Chi Minh City Oncology Hospital at a seminar one year ago, revealed that approximately 16 percent of cancers are sparked by viruses, bacteria, and microorganisms.

Virus strains HBV, HCV, HPV, and bacteria H. pylori alone are responsible for around 15 percent of cancers among humans.

Specifically, HBV and HCV are culprits for liver cancer.

Other cancerous viruses include EBV, HHV-8, HTLV-1, MCV and HIV.

Linked to HPV, cervical cancer makes up 50 percent of infection-related cancers among women.


Consumers should choose greens and food with clear points of origin. Photo: Tuoi Tre

Meanwhile, liver and stomach cancer account for 80 percent of infection-related cancers among males.

Several other types of cancer, including anal, penile, vaginal, vulvar, tongue and throat cancer, are also found to have links with infection.

Cancer-related viruses are found in many healthy people, and turn cancerous only among a small portion of the population, however.

Lung cancer

According to surveys conducted by the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Vietnam, the number of cases of cancer in the country has soared over the past 15 years.

Only cervical cancer has shown signs of decline in recent years, partly thanks to proper health care for women alongside early check-ups and diagnoses.

Notably, cases of lung cancer have doubled compared to years ago.

Back in 2000, the ratio was 17 patients out of 100,000 residents, before rising two-fold to 34/100,000 in 2010.

Incidents of digestive cancers have also soared by 1.5 times in the same period.

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