Cancer in Japan

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Cancer is a non-commutable disease (NCD) which is a developed rather than infectious disease. Like many other high-income countries, there is seemingly an epidemic of NCDs. To highlight this fact, in the 1900’s one of the leading causes of death in Japan was TB- a highly infectious disease and according to the latest data (well 2015 is recent…) only 1 of the top 20 causes of death in Japan is due to infectious diseases, 1 due to external factors and the other 18 are due to NCDs.

Side note, the number 12 spot is classed as “self harm” which should be read as suicide.

Cancer takes up 8 of the top 20 spots from the 5th leading cause of death (lung cancer) down to the 18th leading cause of death (oesophageal cancer) and while other cancers have appeared and disappeared from the table at times, cancer is always present. Additionally it is always present of DALYs reports- Disability adjusted life years.

Japan has active cancer screening programs and cancer awareness events (the most recent that I was aware about was in Nabari at the ADS hall which I remembered 2 days after the fact) and this occurs all across Japan- especially in Fukushima Prefecture where the WHO has rules that there is little chance of cancer development throughout the region with the exception of children and infants who may have been exposed to higher doses of radiation after the 2011 earthquake.

CAM treatment options

While researching cancer in Japan I came across complementary and alternative medicine (Kanpo in Japanese- 漢方) cancer treatments. The research suggests that of respondents in 16 cancer treatment centers and 40 palliative care treatment centers and 44.6% of cancer patients used CAM and 25.6% of patients with benign tumors use a form of CAM.

While there is sparse research of CAM treatment options in a Japanese context, current research does suggest that CAM treatment options have been used without consultation with a doctor.

Cancer screening

Cancer screening in Japan is purely voluntary, like any other country. However, the screening rate in Japan is lower than other HDC (highly developed countries) which but organisations like the Japan cancer society (the name could use some work) screening more than 10 million people annually working to ideally reduce the prevalence of cancer to 0.

To put some numbers behind this, in 2017 the JCS screened over 11.2 million people and 13,712 people were diagnosed with cancer so their actions are saving lives.

There is also a free cancer consultation hotline 03-3541-7830 which is a Japanese only hotline which provides expert advice on treatment options, advise on being employed with cancer.

If you would like to help the JCS out, there are many fundraising events throughout the year and donations can be made directly to the society.

More information can be found on: https://www.jcancer.jp/ and there is information in English and Japanese.

The main cancers prevalent in Japan are:

  • lung cancer
  • stomach cancer
  • intestinal cancers
  • breast cancer
  • cervical cancer

More interestingly, according to the JCS (who grouped all cancers together), cancer was the leading cause of death in Japan in 2017 with a total 373,334 people dying of cancer out of a total of 1,340,397 in 2017. Obviously the JSC have a bias ; but should that distract from it’s importance?

There is plenty of research on cancer in Japan, but it is either never translated into English or it exists as research papers which most people avoid.

Japanese note

Cancer in Japanese is simply がん and it mostly appears in this form. While there is kanji for cancer 癌 it is rarely used- even though it is interesting. The kanji is made up of 3 parts: 疒 Cancer in Japanese is simply がん and it mostly appears in this form. While there is kanji for cancer 癌 it is rarely used. The kanji is made up of 3 parts: 疒 meaning sickness, 品 meaning goods (in this context) and 山 meaning mountain. Collectively it means sick goods as high as a mountain.

I will leave this article here but there is so much more available and there is so much more I can talk about including types of cancer, death rates, treatment options including palliative care options etc.

If you have the resources, please do consider either spreading the word of cancer in Japan or donating.

Thank you for reading and happy exploring.


If you would like a list of the resources used in my articles please do message me. I do not include my resources on blog posts but I usually, and if applicable, include links to major organisations and communities that may help.



Categories:health, opinion

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