Volume 7 - Article 5 | Pages 271–306  

The Cancer Transition in Japan since 1951

By Omer Gersten, John R. Wilmoth


The overall trend of cancer mortality in Japan has been decreasing since the 1960s (age-standardized death rates for ages 30-69), though trends differ enormously among various forms of the disease. Cancer mortality was heavily influenced by Japanese postwar economic recovery, which led to improved living conditions and better control of infectious agents known to cause some common forms of cancer (stomach, cervical). However, Japanese wealth and development have also been associated with risky personal behaviors (smoking, drinking) and other conditions, leading to increases in cancers with no known or else very weak links to infection.
This shift away from infectious and toward non-infectious causes of prevalent forms of cancers is called the "cancer transition," by analogy to Omran's "epidemiologic transition." We suggest that the cancer transition described here in the case of Japan must be a part of efforts to revise and update the epidemiologic transition, which should incorporate new knowledge about the role of infection in chronic disease morbidity and mortality.

Author's Affiliation

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