Last update 5/31/2011 6:20:57 PM (GMT+7)

The “cancer villages”, factories and the environment

VietNamNet Bridge – While Vietnamese healthcare officials have denied the information about “cancer villages” as reported on local newspapers recently, a Vietnamese scientist now working in Australia has opposite opinions.


Professor Nguyen Van Tuan is now working for the New South Wales and Garvan Institute of Medical Research. He had a talk with Tien phong about the phenomenon called “cancer villages” in Vietnam.

In 2005, when talking with the press, a Deputy Minister of Healthcare affirmed that the percentage of cancer cases in the Thach Son cancer village is equal to that in other northern provinces, and that no evidence has been found to show the relation between the environment pollution and the cancer diseases. What would you say about the conclusion?

I have collected some materials about cancer villages in Vietnam. According to the Institute for Cancer Prevention, in Vietnam, 106 men and 59 women out of every 100,000 people die of cancer diseases. If the figure is right for Thach Son in Phu Tho province, where there are about 7000 people, there would be six people dieing of cancer. However, in reality, in the commune, 15 people die of cancer every year.

In other words, the proportion of people dieing of cancer in Thach Son is 2.6 times higher than the average level. As such, we cannot say: “the proportion of cancer diseases infected people in the commune is not high”.

The materials that I have collected show that in every cancer village reported by local newspapers, the percentages of people dieing of cancer are always higher by three to nine times than the average level in the country. The Kim Thanh Village in Nghe An province, for example, only has 1900 people, but it had 100 people die of cancer just within seven years. The proportion is clearly higher by 9 times than the average level.

Do you think that cancer village is just a random phenomenon?

The so called “cancer cluster” is not a new phenomenon at all. In the US, scientists have paid attention to the cases where cancer infected people gather in some places. The places are always the ones where big factories are located which cause the environment pollution.

In other words, it is not by chance that the percentages of cancer infected people are abnormally high in some places. I have to repeat that the percentages of cancer infected people in the cancer villages are abnormally high, which are not as the same as the percentages in other northern provinces.

In the last decades, hundreds of scientific research works have been carried out and have come to a conclusion that the environment plays an important role in creating cancer. A Chinese survey has pointed out that the local residents who use the water taken from underground wells face the risks of infecting cancer higher by two times than normal people.

A Japanese survey has also pointed out that the high concentration of NO2 and SO2 in the atmosphere may cause lung cancer. Therefore, we cannot deny the relation between the environment and the cancer diseases.

As I said above, the common thing of the cancer villages is the presence of big factories and the downgrading of environmental conditions. Though there have been not enough materials to conclude about the links between the presence of the factories and cancer diseases, the research works from the cancer clusters in the US show that the following substances can cause cancer diseases in the community, arsenic, cadmium, chromium, nickel asbestos and benzene.

The chemical substances explain why urbanites and local residents in the areas near industrial factories face higher risks of infecting with cancer diseases than the people in rural areas.

What should we do to decrease cancer villages?

International cancer experts have estimated that 50 percent of cancer cases could be prevented by changing the way of living and changing the living environment.