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China’s Youngest Lung Cancer Patient: An Eight-Year-Old Girl

Update Date: Nov 05, 2013 02:00 PM EST
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Last month, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared air pollution a contributor to cancer. By labeling air pollution as a carcinogen, WHO hopes that countries with the worst air pollution, such as China, would start to address this issue and attempt to find ways of preventing it from getting worse. If these countries do not start programs to limit the emissions of deadly pollutants, millions of people will continue to be at risk of developing cancer and other health conditions. Now, according to several Chinese news agencies, an eight-year-old girl was recently diagnosed with lung cancer, the youngest lung cancer case ever reported in this nation.

The eight-year-old girl, who remains anonymous, lives near a major road in Jiangsu, a province east of Mainland China. The child's health was assessed by Dr. Jie Fengdong from Jiangsu Cancer hospital located in Nanjing. Fengdong concluded that her lung cancer developed due to constant exposure to harmful particles and dust from air pollution. Children lung cancer cases are extremely rare with the American Cancer society reporting that the average age of a lung cancer diagnosis is 70. However, due to the severity of pollution in certain areas of China, children's risk of lung cancer will increase.

The girl's diagnosis came after another Chinese city was shut down temporarily due to the horrible smog conditions. In the northeastern city of Harbin, airports, public transportation and schools were all closed due to smog levels. People's visibility within the city was just 164 feet, or 50 meters. The smog level reached a PM 2.5 reading, which is a measurement of how dangerous the particles in the air are, of over 500. The level of a small and extremely dangerous airborne particle was 40 times higher than WHO's recommended level.

Another city that is notorious for poor air quality is the nation's capital, Beijing. The Beijing's health ministry reported that deaths due to lung cancer have roughly quadrupled over the past three decades. In the city alone, lung cancer is the leading cause of death. The air pollution problem within the country has gotten so bad that China has finally addressed the issue in more depth. The government has proposed a new set of guidelines to clean up the air by 2017, which would cost the country $817 million. Hopefully, these new plans will prevent future cases of lung cancer in young children. 

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