Beijing’s lung cancer scourge

Most of us in Beijing have spent the past few weeks trying our hardest not to breathe. The debate about air-quality metrics and government transparency may have a conceptual ring to it, but you only have to step outside to feel the physical reality of the city’s pollution: even on a relatively clear day (like today) the metallic taste in your mouth is hard to miss.

So it’s not much of a surprise to hear a public health official confirm on Friday that lung cancer has become Beijing’s biggest killer. Mao Yu, deputy director of the municipal health bureau, said that one in five cancer patients in the city suffers from lung cancer and that, over the past 10 years, there has been a 60% increase in cases of the disease.  

Smoking, of course, is a major culprit. But Mao also pointed the finger at environmental pollution as a key contributor. This month is Global Lung Cancer Awareness Month. Walking the streets here, it feels like awareness isn’t the biggest issue: action is what Beijing’s citizens need.