More Women Non-Smokers Getting Lung Cancer, Doctor Says

By Boo Su-Lyn | 21 November 2019

Evidence shows it may be related to wok frying.

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KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 21 — Malaysia is seeing a trend of lung cancer among non-smokers who comprise about a quarter of cases, mostly women, a clinical oncologist said today.

Dr Tho Lye Mun, co-founder of non-government organisation (NGO) Lung Cancer Network Malaysia (LCNM), said some women non-smokers even present lung cancer as early as in their 30s and 40s.

“The causative factors remain undetermined, but there is some evidence that it may be related to cooking oil fume exposure and wok frying,” Dr Tho said at the launch of the “Save The Green Lung” campaign by LCNM and Pantai Hospital Kuala Lumpur (PHKL).

Lung cancer is the third most common cancer in Malaysia after breast and colon cancer. However, 91 per cent of women and 89 per cent of men with lung cancer have their disease detected at the late stages of 3 and 4.

Lung cancer has the worst survival rate of all cancers in Malaysia, with only 11 per cent of lung cancer patients expected to survive for five years. The median survival time is only 6.8 months, according to the Malaysian Study on Cancer Survival. Smoking remains the leading cause of lung cancer.

“In the arena of cancer care, the burden of this disease is huge without a shadow of a doubt. Yet it appears that lung cancer may have taken a backstage in terms of public awareness, resources and NGO initiatives,” said Dr Tho.

“Through a combination of surgery and the latest radiotherapy techniques, targeted therapies, chemotherapy and immunotherapy, lung cancer is potentially curable. Survivors can expect a productive and healthy life following treatment.”

Health Minister Dzulkefly Ahmad said Malaysia envisioned to be a tobacco-free country by 2045.

“Under the National Strategic Plan for Non-Communicable Disease, Malaysia is targeting to reduce smoking prevalence to 15 per cent by 2025,” Dzulkefly said at the launch of the “Save The Green Lung” campaign.

The “Save The Green Lung” campaign by PHKL and LCNM seeks to increase the awareness of early lung cancer screening among Malaysians.

LCNM is working with seven partner hospitals, including PHKL, to offer free low-dose CT scanning for at-risk individuals.

PHKL is providing limited free low-dose CT scans for high-risk smokers aged 45 to 75 with a history of smoking for 20 years, redeemable on LNCM’s website, on a first-come-first-served basis.

Those who are diagnosed with lung cancer will be referred to an oncologist for treatment. PHKL is also giving subsidised lung cancer screening from now until February 2020.

LCNM is also running a “Pot It (Or Plant It), Tag It” campaign to increase awareness of lung cancer. Participants can take a picture of themselves with a plant or tree and post it on social media with the hashtag #LCNMalaysia.

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