Nationwide, cancer rates have surged in mainland China since the 1990s to become the nation's biggest killer. In 2007, the disease was responsible for one in five deaths, up 80% since the start of economic reforms 30 years earlier.
The Communist Party of China that embarked three decades ago on a modernization program says its policies have lifted hundreds of millions of Chinese out of poverty. It points out that its environmental laws are among the toughest in the world. But environmental activists say the laws are only good on paper. And this is the cause that China's rivers, coastal waters and countryside are increasingly fouled by industrial pollution and that the levels of pollution in China are far outpace the West.
In 2010, investigative journalist Deng Fei, posted a widely circulated Google map showing more than 100 "cancer villages" in which cancer rate of the villagers is significant higher than average level. More recent reports suggest the number could be over 400.