Cancer has been the No. 1 cause of death in Korea since 1983, but now for the first time the cancer mortality rate is dropping even as more people contract the disease.
According to 2011 death numbers released by Statistics Korea last Thursday, the cancer mortality went down for the first time from 28.6 percent in 2010 to 27.8 percent last year. Out of 257,396 deaths in 2011, 71,579 were from cancer.
In fact, the cancer mortality rate also declined in 1991 and 1998, but experts believe that was really a drop in diagnosis because many people could not afford to go to hospital during the economic crises.
Increasing early diagnosis of cancer and advancements in treatment contributed to the falling mortality rate from cancer.
According to the figures from one leading cancer center, only 11 percent of cancer diagnosis was made in the first stage of cancer before 1999, but that jumped to 18.5 percent between 2005 and 2009. On the other hand, the percentage of terminal-stage cancer diagnosis halved during the same period.
This is due to more and more people taking cancer screening. While in 2004 only 38.8 percent of adults had screening for major cancers such as lung and colorectal cancer, in 2010 that rose to 56.6 percent.