More Malaysian Women Getting Breast Cancer, Fewer Cervical

In men, prostate cancer showed the highest increase of incidence from the 2007-2011 period to 2012-2016.

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 9 — New breast cancer cases rose significantly in Malaysia, but new cervical cancer cases dropped, a survey on the chronic disease found.

According to the Malaysia National Cancer Registry Report (MNCRR) 2012-2016, roughly 34 women out of 100,000 got breast cancer from 2012 to 2016, compared to about 31 women from 2007 to 2011.

The report, which was published last Friday by the Malaysian National Cancer Registry, also reported slightly higher age-standardised incidence rates (ASR) for corpus uteri cancer. About five out of every 100,000 women were diagnosed with corpus uteri cancer in the 2012-2016 period, compared to the previous figure of about four.

Malaysia, however, reported a decrease in new cervix uteri (cervical) cancer cases, from close to eight of every 100,000 women contracting cervical cancer from 2007 to 2011, down to roughly six of every 100,000 women for the 2012 to 2016 period.

The report did not say what contributed to the increase or decrease of a particular cancer, but Health director-general Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said last week that the decline of cervical cancer cases was likely due to early detection campaigns with government-provided pap smears.

However, this explanation may not hold water. CodeBlue previously reported that only slightly more than one in 10 Malaysian women do a pap smear just once in their lives, even though the test is recommended every three years.

The Ministry of Health (MOH) has been providing free HPV (human papillomavirus) immunisation in schools for 13-year-old girls, from as early as 2011, to protect them from the viral infection that can lead to cervical cancer. The protective effects of HPV vaccination may not translate so quickly to a drop in women’s cervical cancer cases from 2012 to 2016, though.

Dr Noor Hisham, meanwhile, said that there was a significant increase in new colorectal cancer cases, but the MNCRR reports — including the MNCRR 2007-2011 report — recorded no difference in ASR for the disease. The figure is still 11.1.

Dr Noor Hisham, when contacted, said there was “no mistake” in the report. An MOH spokesman referred to an increase of about 800 cases for colorectal cancer in women from 2007-2011 to 2012-2016 as proof that its incidence has increased, even if its ASR did not.

The 2012-2016 report also recorded small increases in the ASR for new thyroid cases, and reported lower incidences in new trachea, bronchus, and lung, ovarian, and leukaemia cancer. The ASR for lymphoma cancer cases, on the other hand, did not change.

Meanwhile, in men, the highest increase of incidence from the 2007-2011 period to 2012-2016 was observed in prostate cancer cases. Roughly eight out of 100,000 men got prostate cancer, compared to the previous figure of about seven.

Other skin, colorectal, and bladder cancers saw a slight increase in incidence rates in men during this period.

The report also found reduced incidence rates for nasopharynx cancer — which was the third most common cancer for men in the previous MNCRR 2007-2011 report — lung, lymphoma, and leukaemia. Nasopharynx cancer is now the fifth most common cancer in men.

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