Number of cancer patients doubles over past decade

December 26, 2013

By Nam Hyun-woo

The chances of survival for cancer patients have risen sharply although the number of people diagnosed with the disease has nearly doubled over the past decade, government data showed, Thursday.

According to the Ministry of Health and Welfare and the National Cancer Center, 218,017 new cases of cancer were reported in 2011.

This represents a 96 percent increase from 10 years ago, and a 6 percent rise from a year earlier. The number of new cases has risen by 3.6 percent on average from 1999.

Thyroid cancer was the most common cancer among Koreans, with 18.6 percent of all patients suffering from it, followed by stomach cancer with 14.5 percent, colorectal cancer with 12.9 percent and lung cancer with 10 percent.

The survival rate of cancer patients has been on a steady rise. The five-year relative survival rate of cancer patients who have been diagnosed within the 2007-2011 period was 66.3 percent, up 12.5 percentage points from that of the 2001-2005 period.

The five-year relative survival rate of cancer describes the percentage of cancer patients alive five years after diagnosis divided by the percentage of the general population of corresponding sex and age expected to be alive within the same period.

Female cancer patients had a better chance of survival with 75 percent doing so in the period 2007-2011, while chances for men remained at 57.6 percent.

The data first suggested five-year relative survival rates according to each cancer type. If a cancer is limited to categories such as prostate, thyroid, breast or stomach, the survival rates hovered over 90 percent.

However, cancers of lung (49.5 percent), liver (46.2 percent) or pancreas (24 percent) have lower survival rates, despite being limited.

The total number of people who survived in 2012 after diagnosis from 1999 was 1.1 million.

“The ministry will establish an effective monitoring system of cancers based on this data and pursue a cancer-control policy such as increasing accessibility on regular cancer screening to the public,” said an official at the ministry.

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