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Cancer cases soar in Vietnam, many related to eating, drinking habits

Wednesday, May 27, 2015, 19:01 GMT+7
Cancer cases soar in Vietnam, many related to eating, drinking habits
A file photo shows many cancer patients having to share one bed at the Ho Chi Minh City Oncology Hospital, one of the top medical treatment facilities for the disease in the southern region.

The number of cancer cases in Vietnam has risen steadily since 1998, with 100,000-150,000 new patients and 70,000 deaths caused by the disease annually, according to figures a research group from the 175 Military Hospital released at a conference in Ho Chi Minh City on Thursday.

>> An audio version of the story is available here

New cancer cases have gone up especially fast recently, as the Ho Chi Minh City Oncology Hospital has diagnosed 13,000 new cases just in the first five months of the year, said Dang Huy Quoc Thinh, deputy director of the infirmary.

The number of cancer patients under treatment at the hospital, one of the top medical treatment facilities for cancer in the southern region, topped 12,000 in 2014, Thinh told Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper. 

New cancer cases in Vietnam are increasing at an alarming rate, Thinh said, quoting figures from the GLOBOCAN project, which provides contemporary estimates of the incidence of, mortality from and prevalence of major types of cancer, at a national level, for 184 countries.

In 1998, 70,000 new cases of cancer were recorded in Vietnam, a figure which surged 114.3 percent to over 150,000 in 2012, according to GLOBOCAN, which is under the France-based International Agency for Research on Cancer, a specialized cancer agency of the World Health Organization.

Though the number of cancer treatment facilities in the Southeast Asian country has increased in recent years, many, including the Ho Chi Minh City Oncology Hospital, are constantly overloaded as the number of cancer patients has risen much faster, Thinh said.

Directly related to bad eating, drinking habits

There are many reasons why new cancer cases have increased in recent times, Thinh said, further explaining that the number of people who smoke heavily and/or drink alcohol frequently in Vietnam remains high, along with many new incidents of food containing harmful chemicals and worsening environmental pollution in many areas of the country.

According to research released by the Union for International Cancer Control at a conference in Australia in 2014, as many as 30-50 percent of all cancers are related to eating and drinking habits, particularly in developing countries, he added.

Drinking too much beer, eating moldy food or eating fried or grilled dishes with fatty oil may pose carcinogenic risks, he said.

Besides, the uncontrollable issue of food hygiene in Vietnam, including food containing toxic chemicals which will affect health for generations, will not only cause cancer but many other diseases.

In recent years, the problem of foods containing toxins or carcinogens has been raised in the mass media, but the issue is still not under control, he said.

Such types of food are sourced from rotting meat dipped into toxic chemicals to make it look and feel fresh, he said.

In addition, eating meals full of dried and salty food also increases the risk of cancer, he added.

Cancer is a disease which can be prevented by a healthy lifestyle, such as not smoking and drinking alcohol and not eating food with high rates of fat, Thinh said.

In addition, people need to exercise and eat more fresh vegetables and fruits.

Lungs and the liver

Currently, lung and liver cancers have taken the lead in the number of new cancer cases in both sexes in Vietnam, according to figures presented at the conference.

It is obvious that smoking is the leading cause of lung cancer and over 50 percent of the country’s population is now smoking.

Previously, people thought smoking only causes lung cancer, but it can also increase the risk of breast cancer, cervical cancer, stomach cancer, and bladder cancer, experts said.

As the more than 80 toxic substances in tobacco go everywhere in the body after smoking, they can cause many different types of cancer, they said.

Women also contract lung cancer due to passive smoking from others around them, they added.

According to experts, Vietnam is located in an area likely infected with hepatitis B and C viruses.

If a person is infected with these diseases, ineffective treatment over a long period will possibly turn them into liver cancer.

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