TAIPEI (Taiwan News) -- A study carried out by Taiwan's Ministry of Health and Welfare (MOHW) revealed that non-smokers in Taiwan are twice as likely to develop lung cancer as heavy smokers in Europe and North America, reported CommonWealth Magazine.
The disturbing finding was part of a second-stage study carried out by the MOHW titled "Lung Cancer in Non-Smokers," which will enter a third phase that will screen 3,000 people for lung cancer.
Researchers postulate that factors which could contributing to this with Taiwanese patients could include family history, cooking oil fumes, second-hand smoke and third-hand smoke. Oddly, the research report did not apparently touch upon air pollution as a factor.
Wang Ming-jiuh (王明鉅), a physician at National Taiwan University Hospital and the author of the opinion piece posted in CommonWealth Magazine, posited that with 13.66 million scooters in Taiwan as of 2016, Taiwan's air pollution cannot be ignored as a significant contributing factor leading to these appalling lung cancer rates.
Given that many people ride their scooters for at least one hour a day, breathing in exhaust from the legions of their fellow motorists and that for decades Taiwan's streets were filled with smoke-belching two-stroke motorcycles, it's not much of a stretch to extrapolate a negative effect on lung health.
Wang also mentioned that the burning of incense as a possible culprit as he claims that burning just one stick of incense can raise the PM2.5 level to above 100. He also mentioned the extensive use of cooking oil in Taiwan, such as shallow frying, stir frying and deep frying as a major source of hazardous indoor pollution.
Wang said that when he placed some oil in a wok and fried just one egg without covering it with a lid, he measured a PM2.5 reading of over 300 in the air around his stove.
He also mentioned the fact that the densely packed island nation has been the scene of intense industrialization, with a plethora of petrochemical, thermal, and cold-fired plants, often very near to urban areas.
The doctor then listed the WHO guidelines for PM2.5 exposure, which are less than 10 [μg/m3] on average per year and 25 [μg/m3] on average per day. In the case of Taiwan, the annual average has been triple the recommended level at 30 [μg/m3] for the past three decades, though in recent years it has dropped to 20 [μg/m3], according to Wang.
Wang admitted that "I have no idea who is at high risk for lung cancer," but given that all Taiwanese are twice as likely to contract the disease than heavy smokers in the West, he called all Taiwanese who have yet to undergo a low-dose CT scan, particularly women, to go ahead and do so. He emphasized that early detection of lung cancer can greatly increase the chances for successful treatment.
He also called on all hospitals to lower their fees for low-dose CT scans for lung cancer so that more people can afford to pay for the procedure out of pocket and ultimately save more lives.