The number of new cancer cases in Hong Kong is projected to rise by up to 40 per cent over the next decade or so, while there may already be more women than men with the killer disease, according to forecasts.
The projection came as the latest statistics from the Hong Kong Cancer Registry showed that a record high of 31,468 new cases were diagnosed in 2016, 1,150 more than in the previous year.
And the number of people confirmed to have the disease, the leading cause of death in Hong Kong, is expected to rise further, according to registry director Dr Wong Kam-hung.
By 2030, the number of new cases is likely to increase by about 30 to 40 per cent compared with the latest available figures from 2016.
Types of the disease expected to see the biggest rise include colorectal, breast and lung cancers, with each forecast to increase by about 40 per cent.
Wong, a clinical oncologist, said the projection was based on changes in the population structure and trends in new cases recorded in previous years.
“Our population will be significantly ageing,” Wong said, noting that age was a contributing factor to certain types of the disease, such as breast and lung cancers.
A diet that was heavy in meat, fat, sugar and processed foods was also associated with developing conditions such as breast and colorectal cancer.
Wong said while Hong Kong’s overall population was growing by about 0.7 per cent per year, the figure was about 3 per cent for those aged 65 or older.
Over the past decade, more males than females were diagnosed with cancer annually, with the latest statistics showing 16,035 men and 15,433 women were newly identified with the disease in 2016.
But the situation was likely to reverse either this year or next, given there was a downward trend in the number of men diagnosed with cancer between 2007 and 2016 but the opposite was true for women.
Wong said more women had been suffering from the disease because of an overall older population. Several types of cancer found in women only, such as breast and cervical cancers, occurred mostly in those aged between 45 and 64.
“When there are more young women turning older, figures for those cancers will also increase,” Wong said.
The government has adopted screening as one of its strategies to fight the disease. Colorectal cancer screening, launched as a pilot scheme in September 2016 and made into a regular programme in August this year, is now available as a subsidised service to residents aged between 50 and 75.
While the American Cancer Society updated a guideline in May this year recommending such screening should start at age 45, Wong said there was no need to screen the younger group, as more than 90 per cent of colorectal cancer cases in Hong Kong occurred at age 50 or older.
The government has also commissioned the University of Hong Kong to conduct a study into the risk factors for breast cancer for local women, to consider the type of screening for those of different risk levels and whether universal screening should be launched.
Tim Pang Hung-cheong, a patients’ rights advocate from the Society for Community Organisation, an NGO, said the growing number of cancer patients would be an extra burden on the public health care system in terms of providing timely services.
“The time for diagnosis and treatment could increase,” Pang said. “People from the grass roots would be affected the most.”
To map out better strategies against cancer, he suggested the government adopt different approaches, such as stepping up work on cancer prevention and detection, better coordination of the range of treatment specialities, as well as providing more resources for patient counselling.
Clement Chan Wai-kit, chairman of Cancer Patient Alliance, said the government should introduce measures to speed up cancer diagnosis for patients in public clinics, as well as put extra effort into offering subsidised drugs for patients.
Chan said for latest treatments which were pending inclusion into a government-backed safety net, pharmaceutical firms could be roped in to offer the services first on a subsidised basis.
This article New cancer cases in Hong Kong projected to rise by up to 40 per cent by 2030 first appeared on South China Morning Post