Colorectal cancer is the number one cancer in Singapore, according to the Health Promotion Board (HPB). They reveal that there are close to 1,460 newly diagnosed cases and 640 deaths in Singapore related to colorectal cancer each year. “By 2030, 1 in 5 Singaporeans will be 65 years and older and the chances of getting colorectal cancer increases with age, especially after the age of 50,” says Ang Hak Seng, CEO, HPB.
Colorectal cancer destroys healthy intestinal cells and can spread to other parts of the body. It usually starts off as small, non-cancerous growths, called polyps, on the wall of your colon. It may exhibit no symptoms until it reaches an advanced stage, says Dr Donald Poon, a medical oncology consultant at the National Cancer Centre of Singapore. People with hereditary colorectal cancer syndrome or inflammatory bowel disease are at greater risk of the disease. Here are steps you can take for early detection and prevention.
If any of your relatives have had colon cancer, your risk skyrockets. About five per cent of colon cancer cases are hereditary, and most of those stem from a genetic disease called Lynch syndrome. People who have this syndrome are 80 per cent more prone to the colorectal cancer than their syndrome free peers. They’re also more likely to develop it at a young age, so have your first colonoscopy in your 30s.
Watch your diet. Dr Poon takes at least two servings of fruit daily, and mushrooms and curry might also ward off colorectal cancer. “An anti-cholesterol drug called statin is found in black oyster mushrooms,” he says. “Curcumin in curry has been known to have a preventative effect too.”
Cooking meat and fish at high temperatures speeds up the formation of heterocyclic amines (HCAs), which are carcinogenic compounds formed in the cooked muscle of meats. Researchers have found that people who munch on lots of meat with burnt edges – whether fried, barbecued or grilled – have an increased risk of getting pancreatic, prostate and colorectal cancer.