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Breast Cancer on Rise in China

Mu Yeliang, a breast cancer patient in her 30s, has been running The Pink Ribbon Group ( for nearly two years, providing fellow survivors with information on treatment and mental support for the disease.

"Awareness, information and the right attitude can mean an even better chance of survival in many breast cancer cases," Mu said, explaining why she set up the site after being diagnosed with the cancer in 2005.

"Many Chinese awomen are hesitant about talking with their doctors about breast cancer problems, because they fear breast removal is the only option," Mu said.

"With more and more women suffering from the disease, I hoped my website might be of some help."

To date, the site has received nearly 2.7 million hits and has more than 40,000 registered members.

But that is just a small fraction of the total number of breast cancer survivors, which stands at about 2 million, said Xu Guangwei, honorary director of the Chinese Anti-Cancer Association and the Breast Cancer Prevention Fund launched last week by the China Association of Social Workers.

Recent figures show that 200,000 of China's 630 million women contract the disease annually, Xu said.

Of those, 40,000 lose their lives to it.

Despite the incidence being relatively low compared to figures for Western countries, where about one in eight or nine women develop the disease, cases have spiked in the country.

A more Westernized diet and higher pace of life and work stress has been partly blamed, Xu said, adding that Shanghai has the country's highest prevalence of breast cancer.

In 1972, 17 out of every 100,000 women in Shanghai had the disease, according to the Shanghai center for disease control.

The figure had risen to 60 cases for every 100,000 by the end of last year.

The disease is also seen afflicting more women in their early 20s, Xu said, adding that the death rate is also on the rise.

Li Xiaoli, vice-director physician at the Beijing Wuzhou Female Hospital, said women should check for breast cancer regularly both by doctors and on their own.

"With early and proper medical intervention, patients are very likely to survive," he said.

He called for more platforms like The Pink Ribbon Group to help spread the message of prevention, proper treatment and adopting the right attitude toward the disease.

Denial, Li said, led to the death of his patient Chen Xiaoxu in May.

Chen, best known for her portrayal of Lin Daiyu in the TV adaptation of the Chinese classic A Dream of Red Mansions, turned to praying for a recovery and delayed treatment.

(China Daily January 22, 2008)

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