January 03, 2023 08:29
New cancer cases dropped by about 10,000 in 2020, the first year of the coronavirus lockdown because the disease often went undiagnosed as patients shunned hospitals for fear of infection.
Seo Hong-gwan, the chief of the National Cancer Center, said the number of "hidden" cases could reach 20,000. According to the Ministry of Health and Welfare, a total of 247,952 people were diagnosed with cancer in 2020, down 9,218 or 3.6 percent from the previous year.
But until then the number of new patients had increased steadily by 10,000 each year, reaching 257,000 in 2019 as the aged population increased and more people had regular health checkups.
Health authorities blamed people's reluctance to visit hospitals in lockdown. "Korea's cancer incidence rate is 262.2 per 100,000 people. The figure is lower than the OECD average of 300.9 and the five-year survival rate is higher," said Kim Han-sook at the ministry. "People who skipped medical check-ups in lockdown should now go to hospital to ensure early detection of any diseases."
The most common type here in 2020 was thyroid cancer (11.8 percent), followed by lung cancer (11.7 percent), colon cancer (11.2 percent), gastric cancer (10.8 percent), breast cancer (10.1 percent), prostate cancer (6.8 percent), and liver cancer (6.1 percent).
Koreans now have a 36.9 percent chance of getting cancer if they live to 83.5, the average life expectancy at birth. That means nearly four out of 10 people will likely get the disease in their lifetime. But some 71.5 percent of patients survived for five years or more in 2020, up six percentage points from 10 years earlier.
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