KUALA LUMPUR - Cancer of the colon and rectum (colorectal cancer) has overtaken cervical cancer as the second most common cancer among Malaysian women.
UKM Medical Centre (UKMMC) oncology department head Assoc Prof Datuk Dr Fuad Ismail said the cancer, which is the most common type among Malaysian men, had intensified with the women in the past few years.
"In 2003, the most common cancer in women was breast cancer, followed by cervical cancer and colorectal cancer," said Dr Fuad after the launch of the European Society for Medical Oncology (ESMO) Asia CME Partner Centre Colorectal Cancer Programme at UKMMC yesterday.
The pattern changed in 2007, when colorectal cancer was recorded as the second most common cancer among women.
"This may be due to the increase of the number of women diagnosed with colon cancer and the decrease of cervical cancer incidence among women," said Dr Fuad, adding that more women were now educated on cervical cancer prevention and its screening methods.
He noted that of the estimated 40,000 cancer cases diagnosed every year, about 4,000 of them were colorectal cancer.
"Men and women are just as likely to get it," said Dr Fuad, who also agreed that colorectal cancer used to be thought of being "a men's disease".
Dr Luqman Mazlan, a surgeon at the UKMMC, who was also present at the event, said surgeons at the medical centre operated on three to four colorectal cancer patients a week.
"We don't routinely screen the general population for colorectal cancer unless a person has a very strong family history of it," said Dr Luqman.
However, he said those who experienced changes in their bowel habits, unexplained weight loss and find blood in their faeces should check for the cancer.
It is not yet clear what causes colorectal cancer but medical website Mayoclinic.com offers the following advice to reduce the risk of developing the disease:
"Eat a variety of fruits, vegetables and whole grains, drink alcohol in moderation, stop smoking, exercise regularly and maintain a healthy weight".