Lifestyle Choices and Cancer
Cancer incidence in Malaysia is expected to double by 2040. Understanding cancer awareness is imperative to tailor preventative efforts and reduce the cancer burden. Lifestyle and your personal choices potentially influence your chance of developing cancer. This means that you have some control over your exposure to these factors. Therefore, you have the power to minimise the effects of these elements and maximize your chance of keeping good health and living a long and happy life.
Dr Yeap Chee Loong, upper gastrointestinal & obesity surgeon, shares his insights on lifestyle choices that can affect cancer risk.
As there are many factors of cancers, they can be broadly divided into modifiable and non-modifiable risk factors.
Non-modifiable risk factors include:
- Genetic defects
Modifiable risk factors include:
- The environment
Lifestyle factors have been proven to cause cancers. For example, smoking was identified as early as 1964 as the primary cause of lung cancer. A part from that, since 1910 chronic alcohol consumption has been identified as a risk factor for oesophageal, oral cavity, liver, pancreas, and breast cancer.
The lifestyle factors include cigarette smoking, diet (red meat and fried food), alcohol consumption, sun exposure, environmental pollutants, infection, stress, obesity, and physical inactivity.
Below are some frequently asked questions about lifestyle cancer causers:
What percentage of cancer is due to our lifestyle?
What foods have cancer-causing chemicals?
Can stress cause cancer to spread faster?
Does a weak immune system cause cancer?
Can obesity cause cancer?
Cancer & Obesity
Are cancers contagious?
No, cancers are NOT contagious.
What are the top 10 cancers?
The table below shows the top 10 cancers around the world in 2017 as per Our world in Data as well as the top 10 most common cancers in Malaysia
|# Rank||Type of Cancer (Deaths)||# Rank||Type of Cancer (Deaths)|
|1||Tracheal, bronchus, and lung (1.88 million)||6||Pancreatic (0.44 million)|
|2||Colon and rectum (0.90 million)||7||Oesophageal (0.44 million)|
|3||Stomach (0.86 million)||8||Prostate (0.42 million)|
|4||Liver (0.82 million)||9||Leukemia (0.35 million)|
|5||Breast (0.61 million)||10||Cervical (0.26 million)|
Top 10 Cancers around the world in 2017 leading to deaths
Top 10 most common cancers in Malaysia between 2012 to 2016
How are cancers diagnosed?
There are many steps or ways to diagnose cancers. This can be done through a screening process or if a patient presents suspicious symptoms. The basic principle to diagnose cancer is to go through the patient's history, conduct a physical examination, blood and imaging investigations, and finally, a tissue biopsy. The type of investigation depends on the type of symptoms and type of suspected cancers.
For example, if a patent presented with difficulty swallowing, and oesophageal cancer is suspected, oesophagogastroscopy (OGDS) will be conducted. If there was a presence of a tumour, tissue biopsies will be taken to confirm the diagnosis of the disease.
How are cancers treated?
Treatment of cancer also depends on the type of cancer. For most solid organ cancer, surgery is the mainstay of treatment. The objective of surgery is to remove the tumour together with its lymph nodes. Then it may be followed by chemotherapy and radiotherapy.
However, when the tumour is too advanced and cannot be removed, some surgical procedures can be carried out to alleviate the patient's symptoms.
Consultant General, Upper Gastrointestinal and Obesity Surgeon
Gleneagles Hospital Kuala Lumpur
Book an appointment with Dr Yeap Chee Loong here for more information on the prevention and treatment of cancer.