Cancer is defined as the uncontrolled or unregulated growth of cells.

The word is derived from "crab" in Latin. In general, one billion cells are required for a cancer lump to reach 1cm diameter or to weigh 1g. This is the limit of detection by imaging techniques.

According to the National Cancer Registry 2002 report:

  • There were over 26,000 new cancer cases diagnosed in Peninsular Malaysia.
  • Unlike Singapore, Malaysian women have a higher incidence of cancer (55 per cent versus 45 per cent) than men.
  • One in 5.5 Malaysians are expected to get cancer in their lifetime (1 in 4 for Chinese, 1 in 5 for Indians and 1 in 7 for Malays).

Common cancers in Malaysia:

  • The most common cancer in Malaysian males is lung cancer, followed by nasopharyngeal or nose cancer.
  • Breast cancer is the most common cancer in females followed by cervical cancer.
  • Colorectal cancer is increasing in incidence in both sexes.

Risk factors

These include: age, family history, smoking, lifestyle factors, viruses and ionising radiation.

  • Tobacco causes approximately 30 per cent of cancers, including cancer of the lung, oral cavity, cervix, pancreas and urinary bladder.
  • The Human Papilloma virus causes cervical cancer and is transmitted through sexual activity with multiple male partners.
  • Hepatitis B can lead to liver cancer. Although family history is important, less than one per cent cancers are inherited or hereditary.

In certain occupations, such as in the asbestos and wood industries, workers have a higher incidence of developing the disease, in these cases of lung and nose cancers respectively.

Dietary factors are responsible for about 30 per cent cancers. Saturated fats are associated with breast, uterus, ovary and colon cancers. Low fibre diets cause colon cancers. High intake of pickles predispose people to stomach cancer. 

The above information is abstracted from the website of the Malaysian Oncological Society
Visit the Malaysian Oncological Society website here.

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