8-year-old gets lung cancer in China

CHINA - An eight-year-old girl has become China's youngest lung-cancer patient, reports said, with doctors blaming pollution as the direct cause of her illness.

The girl, whose name was not given, lives near a major road in the eastern province of Jiangsu, said Xinhuanet, the website of China's official news agency.

It quoted Dr Jie Fengdong, a doctor at Jiangsu Cancer Hospital in Nanjing, as saying that she had been exposed to harmful particles and dust over a long period of time.

Lung-cancer cases among children are extremely rare, with the average age for diagnosis at about 70, according to the American Cancer Society.

But the incidence of the disease has skyrocketed in China as the country's rapid development brought with it deteriorating air quality, particularly in urban areas.

Deaths due to lung cancer have multiplied more than four times over the past 30 years in China, according to Beijing's health ministry. Cancer is now the leading cause of death in the smog-ridden capital.

The report of the girl's diagnosis comes after choking smog enveloped the north-eastern city of Harbin two weeks ago, bringing flights and ground transport to a standstill and forcing schools to shut for several days, with visibility in some areas reduced to less than 50m.

At the height of the smog, the city's levels of PM2.5 - the smallest, most dangerous type of airborne particle - reached 1,000 micrograms per cu m, 40 times the World Health Organisation's recommended standard.

High levels of PM2.5 have been linked to health problems, including lung cancer and heart disease.