The Chinese are facing growing cancer risk from the highly toxic chemical dioxin due to changes in their dietary patterns over the past three decades, a research study said.
Changes in dietary patterns, featured by decreasing consumption of grain and vegetables and increasing intake of animal-derived food, raised cancer risk from 0.2 per cent in 1980 to about 1.2 per cent in 2009, according to a research finding published Thursday in Scientific Reports, an affiliated magazine of Nature.
Varying dietary patterns contributed 17 per cent to the cancer risk of Chinese population in 2009, compared with 8 per cent in 1980, a thesis authored by Lanzhou University Professor Ma Jianmin and Dr. Huang Tao said.
Meanwhile, residents in urban and eastern China were exposed to considerably higher cancer risk to dioxin than those in rural areas and western China, due to higher emissions, household income and greater intake of animal- derived foodstuff such as meat, eggs and dairy products, the thesis said.
It said increasing dioxin emissions from the iron and steel and thermal power industries as well as cremation of wastes were also to blame for higher cancer risk from dioxin.
"But food ingestion is still the major route for human exposure and body burden to dioxin," state-run Xinhua quoted Ma as saying.
While the Chinese government has stepped up efforts to cut dioxin emissions, he said it is increasingly important to raise public awareness of cancer risks in food and convince people to take a healthier diet.
According to World Health Organisation (WHO), dioxins are a group of chemically-related compounds that are persistent environmental pollutants (POPs).
Dioxins are found throughout the world in the environment. They accumulate in the food chain, mainly in the fatty tissue of animals.
More than 90 per cent of human exposure is through food, mainly meat and dairy products, fish and shellfish.
Many national authorities have programmes in place to monitor the food supply. Dioxins are highly toxic and can cause reproductive and developmental problems, damage the immune system, interfere with hormones and also cause cancer, according to WHO.