Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Actress Jang Jinyoung dies from stomach cancer

If you watch Korean cinema you will recognize Ms Jang [장진영/張眞英] from such films as Singles, Between Love and Hate, or the controversial Blue Swallow, in which she played one of Korea's earliest female pilots, one who may have possessed at least some pro-Japanese inclinations.

Sadly, the popular thirty-something actress with the girl-next-door charm has died of stomach cancer (updated KT article here). The English-language Wikipedia listing says she was born in 1974, while the Korean-language Wikipedia listing says 1971, making her either 35 or 38.

Much of Korean media has been pointing out the sad irony that in the 2003 film Scent of Love she played a woman who died from stomach cancer. Indeed, people in Korea and next-door Japan are especially susceptible to stomach cancer, something I've addressed numerous times in the past.

I personally haven't known anyone who succumbed to this harrowing illness, knock on wood, but those around me who have lost a loved one this way all say that it is a particularly horrible and painful way to die, compounded all the more by the fact that it often takes people at such a young age, often in their thirties or forties.

Jang Jinyoung, requiescat in pace.


  1. I saw your post (your blog is one of the few I have in my "Our Daily Breadth" section) just after I saw the news in the KT.

    But for some inexplicable reason you (and I) were the only ones on this, so I'll at least give you a hat tip here. Better yet, I'll say that you are doing what The Marmot's Hole used to do, which is provide news articles at a fast enough clip that people could use it as a primary news source.

    The Marmot is a busy guy, and he has relegated some stuff to his guest bloggers, while the sheer weight of his comments section provides momentum for his blog's continued "popularity."

    I don't know how long that will last. I miss The Marmot's older style, which we still seem glimpses of. He and Oranckay are among the few well-known bloggers with a good sense of stuff, so I hope things change a bit for the better.

    There, how's that for a hat tip. (Not that I want to be glib in the comments section of such a serious story.)

  2. This was very sad that such a young actress was victim to another case of stomach cancer (especially after she played a role in a movie where she was suffering from the same fate!). I know it sounds like an old wives tale logic, but does anybody know if Koreans are susceptible to this type of cancer due to the spicy foods? My grandma used to always say that, but then wouldn't Mexicans have the same consequences?

  3. LastNameKim, this is why armchair epidemiologists don't always know as much as they think (and which is why H1N1 poses a much greater risk than many E2 English teachers and other K-bloggers think it is).

    Koreans who know of the cancer risk or the ulcer problems look at what they guess is the most likely culprit, and in Korea that would be spicy food.

    But in fact, epidemiologists and other medical people look at high rates in Korea and Japan and try to find other reasons, since Japanese don't eat nearly as much spicy food as Koreans.

    Salt has been something people look at as a culprit, and both Korea and Japan have a lot of salt in their diets. Salt and H pylori bacteria (which we now know causes a lot of ulcers) might also be a combination:

    A Korean case-control study investigating the role of salt and H pylori infection in stomach cancer found that subjects with H pylori infection and high salt consumption had a 10-fold risk of early stomach cancer compared with subjects without H pylori infection and with a low salt consumption (P = 0.047). These two case-control studies have some limitations, including issues of possible recall bias and misclassification. For example, both H pylori and salt intake were assessed after the development of stomach cancer. Advancing stomach cancer can combine with the loss of infection characterized by a fall in circulating anti-H pylori antibodies and changes in salt exposure (or in recollection of dietary exposures prior to the onset of disease). Only one cohort study, conducted in Japan, evaluated the potential interaction between diet and H pylori, and found that the positive association between increased salt intake and gastric cancer was statistically significant among subjects with H pylori infection only. The relative risks were similar, however, and the authors note that findings for dietary salt were most pronounced in subjects who had both H pylori infection and atrophic gastritis.

  4. And it might not be salt, but NO3 that is from the preservation process common in Korea and Japan:

    Because of the complexity of diets, the traditional approach with a single nutrient may potentially be confounded by the interactions between food components that are likely to be interactive or synergistic. It is possible that the increased risks in stomach cancer could be due to compounds other than salt in foods that were produced during the preservation process[56]. In East Asia, salted foods and sauces are also high in NO3, a chemical carcinogen, which may either be added to the foods or synergize from amino acids during fermentation. Nitrite and salt may work at an early stage in a synergistic fashion on stomach cancer carcinogenesis that might cause the strong associations between highly salted foods and gastric cancer. However, nitrite was not clearly related with stomach cancer risk[83] and its function may be influenced by other factors. For example, when lower salt intake was combined with higher NO3 intake, stomach cancer mortality rates tended to be lower. However, this might be explained by a higher intake of fresh fruits and vegetables, which are the major source of nitrate and also protect against cancer.

    In one of the links in the OP, there was a link to a discussion of stomach cancer and Korean food at Lost Nomad's site, which has completely disappeared. Sonagi and I got into a discussion about that, with some good info, so I'm sorry it's gone.

  5. Very interesting information, thanks, Kushibo. Japanese and Koreans do tend to use a lot of salt (ie- pure form and soy sauces)....and also MSG. That's bad news for me as I love salty foods as well.

  6. LastNameKim wrote:
    That's bad news for me as I love salty foods as well.

    Not necessarily. Just make sure you get yourself checked out for an H Pylori infection from time to time.

  7. I read a relatively recent Scientific American article citing that NO3s might actually not contribute seriously to the risk of stomach cancer as once thought. And they may actually contribute to promoting stomach health as it was shown they have an antibacterial effect (possibly inhibiting H. pylori?).

  8. Nathan, do you have a link to that? I'm lazy at the moment.


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