Xinglong, featured in Adrian’s report, is one of the places that’s had the most media attention, but it’s estimated there are more than 500 cancer villages across China.
Investigative journalist Deng Fei helped put together a map showing the spread of villages in 2009. Many are near the east coast, but studies since suggest increased movement inland to poorer and less educated areas.
Use the map below to see more, and read English translations of some of the featured articles here.
View China's Cancer Villages in a larger map
The cancer areas have also been mapped by Lee Liu from the University of Central Missouri for Environment Magazine.
He believes water contamination from industrial pollution is the main cause of cancer villages. Many are clustered around major rivers, which have become heavily polluted from industry based near waterways.
“These industries have contributed to rapid GDP growth in their regions,” he writes, but “this growth has been achieved at the expenses of the health and lives of poor villagers… leading to the devastation of the village economies.”
Lee Liu is critical of government controls on the media, legal system and NGOs, which he says have allowed the problem to spread because of a lack of reporting.
Reliable figures on cancer deaths in China are hard to obtain, but at least an 80% increase in cancer deaths has been reported since the start of economic reforms more than 30 years ago.
Chinese farmers are now said to be four times more likely to die from liver cancer than the global average. Rural areas have also reported higher mortality rates than urban areas from liver, stomach, oesophageal and cervical cancers.
Last year, Greenpeace carried out tests in Xinglong to assess the pollution. In an underground aquifer, it found water that tested hundreds of times over the safe limit for chromium.
Chromium is a heavy metal used in the manufacture of materials like stainless steel and tanned leather. It occurs naturally in small amounts in the earth's crust, but according to the World Health Organization, larger amounts can pollute drinking water and cause cancer.
Ma Tianjie from Greenpeace reported that people were planting crops barefoot and putting their animals out on the contaminated land, because they just weren’t aware of the danger from the 5,000 tons of hazardous waste dumped nearby.
Greenpeace says its research and the subsequent media attention have helped, with China’s Ministry of Environmental Protection announcing a national crackdown on chromium waste sites.
But chromium is extremely difficult to dispose of. Greenpeace says some contaminated sites in the US are still not completely clean after 30 years of work, so China still has a long way to go.
Find out more by following the links above and reading the articles under 'other perspectives' on the right-hand side of the page.
Sources: China Digital Times/Environment/Guardian/Greenpeace/World Health Organization