Cancer statistics in Singapore can be worrisome to people. The Singapore Cancer Registry Annual Report indicates that 78,204 cancer cases were diagnosed in Singapore from from 2015-2019. One in 4 people in Singapore may develop cancer in their lifetime. While cancer treatment has improved a lot over the years and the mortality rate of cancer in Singapore has decreased, prevention, as they say, it better than cure. Read on to learn how to prevent cancer.
Top 3 Cancers in Singapore
The 3 most common cancers in Singapore (2015-2019 data) for males and females are:
- Males: colorectal, prostate and lung
- Females: breast, colorectal, and lung
How to Prevent Cancer
People do not “catch” cancer from someone else as it is not contagious. However, cancer develop due to lifestyle factors like smoking (or inhaling second-hand smoke), consuming alcohol excessively, consuming too much fat, over-exposure to sunlight, radiation, or industrial chemicals. As such, avoiding these risk factors can help in avoiding cancers.
Avoid Smoking and Cigarette Smoke
While movies in the past had often romanticised smoking, the reality is that there are around 40 different carcinogenic substances in cigarette smoke, and it is the number one risk factor for lung cancer. It is found that most lung cancer sufferers are smokers. Besides lung cancer, smoking can cause mouth, throat, larynx, oesophagus, stomach, pancreas, kidney and bladder cancer too. The same applies for second-hand smoke too, so non-smokers should find ways to protect themselves and avoid inhaling second-hand smoke as much as possible.
It might not be easy, but here are some steps you can take to help you to quit smoking:
- Enlist the support of friends and family, or join a programme or support group, to support your efforts to quit
- Discard your cigarettes and lighters.
- Spend more time with non-smokers in smoke-free environments.
Eat More Fresh Fruit and Vegetables
Fibre and vitamins found in fruits and vegetables can reduce the risk of cancers colorectal and stomach cancers. Furthermore, they can even reduce the risk of breast cancer. On the other hand, processed foods (e.g. ham, bacon) and even salted or preserved food (e.g. pickled vegetables) contain chemicals that could increase the risk of cancer when taken excessively.
Consumption of improperly stored food could also increase the risk of cancer. For instance, peanuts, seeds and grains that have turned mouldy contain substances that can cause liver cancer.
To lower the risk of cancer:
- Eat fresh fruit and vegetables at every meal;
- Consume a variety of fruits and vegetables so that you get a variety of different minerals. Dark-green leafy vegetables and orange-yellow fruits in particular are good. Do not overcook vegetables as this could destroy the vitamins in them;
- Eat wholemeal bread or wholegrain cereals for their fibre;
- Avoid or reduce intake of salted, pickled, preserved and processed foods;
- Prevent nuts and grains from becoming mouldy by storing them in air-tight containers.
Regular Exercise and Consume Less Fatty Foods
The risk of developing cancers of the colon, rectum, breast and prostate get higher when the person is overweight:
- Target to maintain a healthy weight for your height;
- Exercise at least 30 minutes five times a week. Motivate yourself by participating in exercise and sports with friends and family;
- Remove fat from meat and skin from poultry before cooking, and avoid fats when eating;
- Stew, bake, steam or boil instead of deep-frying your meals;
- Choose skimmed milk, reduced fat cheese or low-fat yoghurt instead of full fat options. Also, reduce intake of sugar in soymilk, coffees and teas.
- If you must snack, go for fresh fruit or wholemeal crackers.
Do Not Consume Alcohol Excessively
Consumption too much alcohol increases the risk of liver cancer, and also cancer of the mouth, throat and oesophagus.
If you do consume alcohol:
- Limit the consumption to two standard drinks or less a day. A measure of a standard drink is approximately one can of beer (285ml), one glass of wine (120ml), or one measure of spirits (30ml);
- Alternating alcoholic drinks with non-alcoholic ones and drink them slowly can help reduce the amount consumed each time.
Avoid Getting Sunburnt
Ultraviolet rays from the sun damage the skin and skin cancer can result from frequent sunburns. Fair-skinned people in particular are more prone to skin cancer.
- Try to avoid direct sunlight between 10am to 4pm when UV rays are the strongest;
- Wear a hat / cap and stay in the shade whenever possible.
- Protect your exposed skin with sunscreen or sunblock with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30. Reapply the sunblock every 4 hours.
Compliance with Work Safety Regulations Relating to Carcinogenic Substances
Some jobs can expose workers to carcinogenic substances. If you are in such a job, make you would follow the safety regulations, such as:
- Taking cover behind protective shields or staying in “safe” areas;
- Wearing prescribed personal protective equipment;
- Ensuring you know how to handle the equipment or the chemicals properly, and what to do in case of emergencies.
This article is informative only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment, and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice.