Less than one-third of China’s 1.4 billion people are covered by domestic cancer registries, financial outlet Caixin reported Wednesday.
In a review paper published last week in The Lancet Oncology, a British medical journal, the head of China’s National Cancer Center, He Jie, and a team of researchers reported on the development of the country’s cancer registries over a 60-year period from 1959 to 2019.
They found that as of last year, China had 574 local cancer registries covering 438 million people, or around 31% of the country’s total population. The proportion was significantly lower than the 96% coverage in the U.S. and nearly 100% coverage in the U.K., Australia, and South Korea, according to the authors.
Disease data collected by cancer registries not only helps doctors study incidence rates, but also improves health care policymaking, the authors said.
“The implementation of cancer registration in China allows for the measurement of progress in cancer prevention and control, including the effects of health protection policies, primary prevention, secondary prevention, and increased access to early detection and treatment,” the paper said.
For example, Chinese scientists identified a link between air pollution and rising lung cancer rates using registry data from 1990 to 2009.
In addition to the shortage of registries, the current system has failed to provide a representative picture of the entire country, the authors said.
“More extensive efforts are needed to improve the quality of cancer registration and population coverage, notably in the western, more rural areas of China,” they wrote. “The cancer burden profile varies markedly across different areas in China, implying the need for targeted programmes of cancer prevention and control that should be applied locally.”
Specifically, the authors recommended the continued development of PBCRs — population-based cancer registries — as an effective means of gauging the country’s cancer rate and public health needs.
Editor: David Paulk.
(Header image: Nurses walk down a hallway of a hospital in Yangzhou, Jiangsu province, May 12, 2020. Meng Delong/IC)