BRUNEI-MUARA - Lung cancer is now the leading cause of cancer death among women in Brunei, with the number of cases on par with breast cancer for the first time, according to statistics from the Ministry of Health.
With 22 female deaths from lung, tracheal and bronchial cancer recorded in 2011, the rate is now equal to that of breast cancer, of which there were also 22 deaths last year.
These statistics were revealed in an exhibition during the International Forum for Global Health, organised by Universiti Brunei Darussalam yesterday.
The display, set up by the Health Promotion Centre (HPC), highlights the rise of non-communicable disease in the country.
Lung cancer is the most prevalent kind of cancer in the Sultanate, with 20 per cent of cancer deaths attributed to the disease. Among men, it is also the most common type of cancer.
The morbidity rate for lung cancer has risen 35 per cent since 2009, with 37 reported deaths in that year compared to 50 in 2011.
The occurrence of lung cancer is almost double that of rectal and anal cancer, which is the second leading cause of cancer deaths at 10 per cent (28 deaths) in 2011.
Pg Anuar Husaini Pg Hj Rambli, a health education officer from HPC, said the rise in non-communicable disease, including cancer, is attributed to a number of lifestyle factors, such as smoking, obesity, alcohol use, lack of physical activity and too much exposure to UV light.
World Health Organisation (WHO) representative Dr Gulin Gedik (pictured), a keynote speaker at yesterday's forum, said tobacco control was a high priority for WHO based on their Tobacco Free Initiative, of which 175 countries including Brunei, is a signatory.
"Non-communicable disease is a high priority for WHO and other agencies on the basis of the UN political statement. We are addressing the risk factors, and tobacco is one of the risk factors," she told The Brunei Times.
"When you look at the leading cancer deaths (in Brunei) - tracheal, bronchial and lung cancer ... I would assume the smoking rate is quite high in Brunei."
According to a WHO's 2011 report on the global tobacco epidemic, government expenditure for tobacco control was $134,715 in 2008, with no available figures for subsequent years.
Brunei has kicked its anti-tobacco drive into high gear over the past two years, by increasing the tax on tobacco two-fold and banning smoking in public areas. In March, the government expanded the smoking ban to more public areas and began enforcing a regulation prohibiting shops within a kilometre radius of schools from selling cigarettes.
In September, the size of health warnings on tobacco products will increase from 50 to 75 per cent.