WHILE slightly more people in Singapore have been diagnosed with cancer, latest figures show that the increase for women was higher than that for men.
There were 5,796 new cases of cancer affecting females in 2010, a 6 per cent increase from that in 2009, based on new statistics the Health Ministry's National Registry of Diseases Office (NRDO) released to my paper yesterday.
In contrast, there were 5,286 new cases affecting men, just a 0.6 per cent rise from that in 2009.
Overall, 11,082 new cases affecting Singaporeans and permanent residents were diagnosed in 2010, a 3.5 per cent rise from that in 2009.
However, this may not be due to cancer developing in more people, but an increase in the number of people being diagnosed, said health experts.
"Due to greater awareness, more cancers are now being picked up and properly diagnosed," said Associate Professor Cynthia Goh, a senior consultant in palliative medicine at National Cancer Centre Singapore.
Dr Elaine Lim, a consultant medical oncologist at Mount Elizabeth Hospital, said that the increase for women could be due to more cancer cases being identified through screenings, a real increase in breast-cancer incidence, or both.
"With better nutrition, females are exposed to greater levels of female hormones, possibly increasing the risk of breast cancer," she said.
She noted that a United States study showed that breast- cancer risk increased with the use of hormone-replacement therapy. Such therapy is often used by post-menopausal women.
Breast cancer is the most frequent cancer for females in Singapore, while colorectal cancer is the most frequent for males, based on the NRDO's figures.
Ahead of World Cancer Day tomorrow, organisations here are rolling out initiatives to raise awareness of cancer, which is responsible for one in every four deaths here.
The Singapore Cancer Society will participate in events to remind the public that cancer can be prevented and to go for regular screening.
One such event is the National University Cancer Institute's World Cancer Day celebration today.
The Lien Foundation highlighted the importance of palliative care to reduce suffering for cancer patients with its Life Before Death campaign on Wednesday. It also aimed to dispel myths related to pain-relief drugs used in palliative care, like their perceived high cost.
At that event, cancer survivor Bernard Ng, 67, shared how the persistent pain from his illness was so great that it left him with suicidal thoughts in 2009. The retiree said that the use of pain-relief medication helped him overcome his depression and pain.
Next month, the Health Promotion Board will support the Singapore Cancer Society's efforts to raise awareness of colorectal cancer among people aged 50 and above, and encourage them to go for checkups.
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