《TAIPEI TIMES》 Lung cancer Taiwan’s most common type: data
A person is scanned for lung cancer in Taoyuan in an undated photograph. Photo courtesy of the Taoyuan of Department of Public Health
FEWER DIAGNOSES: Cancer screening in 2021 decreased due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and statistics from coming years would be more illuminating, an official said
By Lin Hui-chin and Jake Chung / Staff reporter, with staff writer
The number of cancer diagnoses in the nation has dropped and lung cancer has replaced colon cancer as the most common type, data released by Ministry of Health and Welfare yesterday showed.
According to statistics from 2021, men diagnosed with cancer numbered at 63,723, while the age-standardized incidence rate was 330.8 per 100,000 people, down 5.4 compared with 2020.
Women diagnosed with cancer numbered at 58,039, while the age-standardized incidence rate was 288.4 per 100,000 people, down 4.4 from 2020.
Compared with 2020, higher rates of skin cancer were seen among women, which is the eighth most common cancer in the nation, the data showed.
Health Promotion Administration （HPA） Director-General Wu Chao-chun （吳昭軍） said the ranking was due to the drop in colon cancer cases and increased testing for lung cancer.
Third and fourth-stage lung cancer diagnoses rose 11.1 percent and 50.2 percent respectively from 2020, while early-stage cancer diagnoses increased from 13.7 percent in 2020 to 35.4 percent, HPA Cancer Prevention Division Director Lin Li-ju （林莉茹） said.
The HPA said it is working on the fifth phase of its national cancer prevention program and has commissioned experts to assess whether there are other risk factors to consider and if cancer screening efforts would have to be expanded.
The fifth phase includes reinforcing cancer screening capabilities and timely treatment, Lin said.
The number of people diagnosed with lung cancer rose each year from 2017 to 2021, while the age-standardized incidence rate grew to 39.7 per 100,000, the HPA said.
The decrease in diagnoses of liver and colon cancer shows that the nation’s efforts to treat the cancers have been successful, Wu said.
However, overall cancer screening in 2021 dropped due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and statistics in coming years would have to be taken into account to gauge whether lung cancer has truly become more prevalent, Wu added.
Free low-dose computed tomography （LDCT）, made available to high-risk groups from July 1 last year, might have also been a factor in increasing lung cancer diagnoses, Wu added.
Free LDCT screenings could increase the number of lung cancer diagnoses in the next two to three years, National Taiwan University Hospital Department of Surgery chairman Chen Jin-shing （陳晉興） said.
The public should not be too concerned over the rising rates, as this indicates heightened awareness and could lead to a reduction of mortality rates in the long run, he said.
The increase in lung cancer diagnoses among women suggests the prevalence of indoor pollutants, he said.