Actress' death at 27 raises cancer concerns

Updated: 2013-03-05 07:52

By Wang Qingyun (China Daily)

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The death of a 27-year-old actress from uterine cancer has aroused public awareness of the disease, as research shows the rate of some kinds of that cancer is on the rise.

Song Wenfei died on Sunday morning at home in Guangzhou. Zhang Lingzhi, Song's close friend and co-star in the TV series Dancer, first reported the death on her micro blog.

Zhang told a program on Shanghai TV on Monday that Song was first diagnosed with uterine cancer in 2011 but kept working on her TV series until May.

Zhang said in the interview that doctors suggested Song immediately have surgery, but she refused and returned to work after receiving treatment.

Zheng Hong, a gynecologist at Beijing Cancer Hospital, said cervical cancer and cancer of the uterus are the two most common types of uterine cancer.

"Uterine cancer (cancer of the uterus) mostly occurs in women aged 50 to 60, and cervical cancer mostly in those aged 40 to 50," she said. "A woman should check her uterus annually. Those who have had sex should do a gynecological test. Those who haven't should get an ultrasound scan."

Chen Wanqing, deputy director of the National Central Cancer Registry, said the incidence of uterine cancer, especially cervical cancer, is on the rise in China.

According to Chen, a main cause of cervical cancer is the infection of the human papillomavirus. Research in the 1970s and the 1990s showed that the rate of cervical cancer in China was lowered during that time because improved hygiene decreased the chance of infection.

"Yet the past decade saw an increase in the disease, especially in urban areas, probably because people are exposed to sex earlier and tend to have more sexual partners," he said. "Sex became a main route for infecting HPV."

The latest official report on the health of Beijing residents backed up his remarks.

Issued by the city's government, the report shows the rate of cervical cancer has risen over the past decade, increasing from 3.92 per 100,000 women in 2001 to 8.96 per 100,000 in 2010, with an annual increase of 10.1 percent.

On the other hand, the occurrence of uterine cancer has as much to do with lifestyle as it does with sex, including obesity and a lack of exercise, experts said.

One's mental state also plays a role in causing tumors, because long-term unrelieved mental stress weakens the immune system and increases the odds of getting cancer, Chen said.

In March 2012, Song said on her micro blog that she went to a hospital in Beijing because she was "increasingly worried" about her body due to "high pressure from work and life".

Cancerous uterine diseases have taken a toll on other public figures as well.

Anita Mui Yim-fong, a famous singer and actress in Hong Kong, died from cervical cancer in 2003 at age 40, raising the public's awareness of the importance of early treatment of the disease.

(China Daily 03/05/2013 page4)