The C-Word Nobody Really Wants to Talk About

by Li Yuling

Every day, 36 people in Singapore are told they have cancer. What are we doing about it?

I lost my grandfather to colon cancer, and recently, a friend to stomach cancer.

Two of my closest friends are battling cancer. One is undergoing treatment while the other is in remission. Both younger than 45, these women are some of the toughest people I know. Thankfully, both detected their cancers early.

Singapore has the highest incidence of cancer in Southeast Asia, and a 2015 Singapore Cancer Registry report revealed that local cancer cases have hiked by about 17 percent since 2010. From 2011 to 2015, the three most common cancers in Singapore men were colorectal, lung and prostate cancer. Breast, colorectal, and lung cancer topped the list for women.

Cancer is a complex group of diseases with multiple possible causes, from genetic to environmental. Some genetic mutations that cause cancer are inherited from our ancestors while others are triggered by viral infections or exposure to chemicals (such as asbestos) or radiation. In the US, about 1 out of 5 cancers are linked to body fatness, physical inactivity, excess alcohol consumption, and/or poor nutrition.

Having written for various health periodicals, I hear doctors say this a lot: Some diseases like cancer are often preventable, but people are not doing what they can to help themselves.

In fact, Cancer Research UK estimates that 4 out of 10 cancer cases can be prevented through lifestyle changes.

Let’s start with five: Stop smoking. Drink less. Exercise regularly. Eat more healthfully. Watch your weight.

I could tell you how your odds will improve with each lifestyle change.

By being physically active, you could lower your risk of developing 13 different cancers. And reduce your chances of colorectal cancer and uterine (endometrial) cancer by up to 30 percent.

Eating 10g of fibre a day (that’s about a pear and an orange) cuts your bowel cancer risk by 10 percent.

Or I could tell you that smoking is linked to 9 out 10 lung cancer cases. That heavy drinkers are five times more likely than non-drinkers to develop cancers of the mouth and throat.

Being overweight or obese raises your risk of 13 cancers, including the common ones like breast and colorectal cancer.

These are all just numbers, aren’t they?

But once in a while, it helps to remind ourselves of these things; to remember to care a little more for our bodies.

Today, one of my friends shared an insightful article about self care, which rang so true. Self care isn’t about retail therapy or the occasional spa indulgence — enjoyable as all that may be.

Listen to your body. Know your family history. Go for regular screenings. Don’t ignore the early symptoms.

Be kinder to your body because it’s the only one you’ve got.

Start caring.


Related links:

Eat More, Eat Smarter

Hello Paleo, My Old Friend

Walk This Way

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