Colorectal cancer on the rise
KUALA LUMPUR: COLORECTAL cancer has overtaken lung cancer as the second most common cancer among Malaysians, raising serious concerns about our poor dietary habits, especially the consumption of foods high in saturated fats.
According to the World Health Organisation’s Globocan 2008 report, one in 33 Malaysians are at risk of developing colorectal cancer.
The most frequent cancers among Malaysians are breast, colorectal and lung cancer, with one in 19 Malaysians developing breast cancer, one in 33 developing colorectal cancer and one in 40 developing lung cancer.
“With an estimated annual incidence of 30,000 cancer deaths in the country, one in four Malaysians are expected to get cancer in their lifetime,” said Dr Gogilawani Muagan, education development manager of the National Cancer Society Malaysia.
She said the two major contributing factors that increase the risk of cancer were tobacco and smoking, and diet and obesity, each contributing to 31 per cent of all types of cancer.
Ratna Devi Nadarajan, chief executive officer of the Malaysian Association of Standards Users, said although there were many possible reasons for colon cancer, medical experts had identified various risk factors, which were related to food and diet.
This included a diet low in fibre and high in red and processed meats, alcohol, fried foods, cooking meats or any other food at very high heat, or cooking with saturated fats like lard and tallow.
She said there were many ways pollutants and carcinogens like pesticide residue could find their way into the fruits and vegetables we eat, but encouraging good agriculture practices and organic farming could minimise this risk.
Another worrying trend, she observed, was the underestimated consumption of deteriorated cooking oil, or food cooked by it, as it contained polar compounds.
These compounds were a by-product of cooking oil exposed to very high temperatures or resulting from prolonged exposure to high temperatures. This often happened when oil is used for frying. Total polar compounds, or TPCs, are suspected carcinogens and increase risk of heart-related diseases.
“Last year, we tested cooking oil packed in 1kg pouches and found high levels of polar compounds. If new cooking oil bought from retailers contain high levels of TPCs, there is valid reason to suspect that the cooking oil is either recycled cooking oil or has been mixed with recycled cooking oil. Some of the restaurants we visited in SS3, Kelana Jaya and the pasar malam there used the 1kg pouch, or the same ones, but in bulk packing.”
The Globocan report provides contemporary estimates of the incidence of, mortality and prevalence of major types of cancers, in 184 countries.
Earlier, in June, worldwide media reported that by 2030, cancer cases were expected to increase globally by 75 per cent, based on findings by international cancer experts published in the journal Lancet Oncology, with more developing countries adopting Western lifestyles linked to cancer.
Cancers of the lung, colon and breast, linked to bad diet and exercise, smoking and drinking, will account for at least one-fifth of new cancer cases. Dr Gogilawani said a majority of the patients were diagnosed at the later stages of the disease, due to lack of awareness and not going for cancer screenings.
So, is Malaysia experiencing a spike in cancer cases?
With the lack of up-to-date data, it is a difficult question to answer conclusively, said experts.
“We need an accurate and long- term cancer registry data,” said Malaysian Oncological Society president Dr Ahmad Kamal Mohamed.
“The first report of the National Cancer Registry Malaysia noted 26,089 new cancer cases in 2002, 21,464 new cancer cases in 2003 and 67,792 cases collectively for the years 2003 to 2005. There have been no Malaysian cancer registry figures after that.”
While not many studies have been done to see the connection between food and cancer, Dr Ahmad said it was believed that a healthy diet high in fruits and vegetables, with less fat and red meat, was better at reducing risks.
Relay for Life 2012 on Oct 13
JOIN the National Cancer Society Malaysia, cancer survivors and friends at Stadium UKM Bangi from 6pm on Oct 13 to 10am Oct 14 for this year’s Relay for Life.
In addition to the overnight relay, games, performances and fundraising events will be held to raise funds in support of cancer awareness. For more information log on to www.rflmalaysia.com.
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