More than 1 million Chinese die every year from chronic
obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and as many as 70 percent of
them never even knew they had it, experts said yesterday at a press
conference to mark tomorrow's World COPD Day.
COPD is the fourth leading cause of death in the world. However,
in China's rural areas, it is the No 1 killer.
"About 1.28 million people die of the disease every year in
China, or about 2.5 people every minute," Cai Boqiang, a professor
working for the Beijing Xiehe Hospital, said at the conference.
He said the death rate from COPD is higher than coronary heart
disease, which kills about 1 million Chinese people every year.
However, people pay less attention to COPD, he said.
Ran Chengxin, president of Guangzhou Medical College, said just
4.3 percent of the people taking part in a nationwide survey on
pulmonary disease said they had had their lungs examined.
Of those diagnosed with COPD, only 6.5 percent had received an
examination of their lungs, he said.
"Worse yet is that only 31.1 percent of COPD patients are
actually diagnosed as having the disease. Most doctors fail to
pinpoint the disease in its early stages," Ran said.
He said about one-third of patients do not have any symptoms,
such as coughing.
Zhong Nanshan, a director of the Guangzhou Institute of
Respiratory Diseases, said there are two major reasons the disease
has reached epidemic proportions in China.
First, smoking is a leading cause of the disease, with 13.2
percent of smokers contracting COPD against 5.1 percent of
A second major factor is cooking fuel, he said.
Zhong said the rate of COPD among women in Shaoguan, an
undeveloped city in Guangdong Province, is 7.1 percent, while the
rate in Guangzhou is 3 percent.
He said about 90 percent of people in Shaoguan use biofuels to
cook with, while coal gas or liquid natural gas are more often used
in urban areas.
Burning biofuel creates much more toxic gas than other fuels,
which is why the incidence of COPD is higher in rural areas, he
Cai said it costs hundreds of thousands of yuan to treat a COPD
patient, but many patients are old or on a small income and cannot
afford the medical expenses.
"Preventing and treating the disease in its early stages is the
best way to control it," he said.
(China Daily November 13, 2007)