Japan Cancer Society
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Cancer in Japan

One in every three people dies from cancer

For several years after World War II, between 50,000 and 60,000 people in Japan died from cancer every year. Since then, the number of cancer deaths has increased steadily and cancer became the top cause of death, surpassing strokes, in 1981.


According to statistics compiled by the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, 353,000 people died of cancer in 2010, accounting for one in every three deaths. Heart diseases, the second biggest killer, accounted for only about half the number of cancer deaths.

While every aging society is confronted by an increasing number of cancer patients, the actual peak of cancer deaths for Japanese males is in their sixties, and for females in their fifties. The ratio of cancer deaths to the total number of male deaths is higher than 30% for men in their early fifties, climbing to higher than 45% for men in their late sixties. For females, nearly 40% of total deaths of women in their late thirties are caused by cancer. The ratio increases to 50% of female deaths in their late forties and to nearly 60% of women who die in their late fifties. These facts clearly show that cancer is a disease that attacks people in the prime of life.

Lung cancer is No.1 cause of Death

Lung cancer became the major cause of cancer deaths among Japanese for the first time in 1998, surpassing stomach cancer, according to statistics compiled by the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare. Lung and stomach cancers were followed by colon cancer, liver cancer and pancreatic cancer.