China Acknowledges “Cancer Villages”

by Project Censored
Published: Updated:

In February 2013, China’s environmental ministry officially acknowledged the presence of cancer hot spots, known informally as “cancer villages,” throughout the country.  For years, stories about pollution in Chinese villages near factories have been circulating, linking harmful chemical runoff to environmental and health hazards.

A 2007 BBC story reported on industrial pollution in the small town of Shangba and its affects on the town’s residents.  High cancer rates in the village were connected to poisonous metals that leaked from a nearby mine, contaminating the Shangba’s water supply.

Chinese media have reported 459 “cancer villages” throughout China, in every province and autonomous region except Qinghai and Tibet.  Once a rare disease, cancer is now the biggest killer in both urban and rural China, with mortality rates as high as 80 percent in the last 30 years.

The term “cancer village” has no technical definition and the ministry’s report did not elaborate on it.   What actions the Chinese government will take to address this situation remain to be seen.


Shelley Jiang, “The Horrific Cost of China’s Breakneck Development: Cancer Villages,” TeaLeafNation, September 19, 2012,

“China acknowledges ‘cancer villages,'” BBC News, February 22, 2013,

Dan Griffiths, “China’s ‘Cancer Villages’ Pay Price,” BBC News, January 17, 2007,

Student Researcher:  India Neville, College of Marin

Faculty Evaluator:  Susan Rahman, College of Marin