Cancer Remains Korea's No. 1 Killer

  • By Kim Choong-ryung

    September 29, 2021 12:46

    Deaths from gastric and liver cancer have dropped over the past decade, but those from lung, pancreatic and colon cancer have increased.

    Last year's cancer death rate was 160.1 per 100,000 people, with 198.5 for men compared to 121.9 women. The figure for men increased 1.1 percent from a year earlier and for women 1.4 percent.

    The biggest killer of men was lung cancer with 54 per 100,000 people, followed by liver cancer (30.5) and colon cancer (19.8). Among women the deadliest cancer was also lung cancer (18.8), but it was followed by colon cancer (15.1) and pancreatic cancer (12.9).

    Statistics Korea on Tuesday said 304,948 people died last year, up 3.3 percent on-year and the first time the number surpassed 300,000 since records began in 1983 as the elderly population grew. At the same time the number of babies born fell below 300,000 for the first time, so the population shrank.

    The main causes of death were cancer (82,204), heart diseases (32,347), pneumonia (22,257), cerebrovascular diseases (21,860), suicide (13,195), diabetes (8,456), Alzheimer's disease (7,532), liver diseases (6,979), hypertensive diseases (6,100), and blood poisoning (6,086). Coronavirus did not play a significant role in the statistics, but fewer people received treatment for other diseases in lockdown, which seems to have resulted in a higher death rate.

    Geriatric diseases such as Alzheimer's disease and blood poisoning were newly added to the main causes of death. Blood poisoning was the 14th deadliest disease in 2010, but rose to 10th place last year, while Alzheimer's rose from 11th to seventh.

    The suicide death rate was 25.7 per 100,000 population last year, down 17.6 percent from a decade earlier, but it is still high compared to the OECD average of 10.9. Suicides among young people increased over the past five years, with the rate among 20-somethings rising an alarming 32.3 percent.

    The death rate from alcohol rose 9.8 percent on-year to 10 per 100,000 population.

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