Cancer Deaths Rise 30% Among Malaysians

Malaysia reported 82,601 cancer deaths in 2012-2016, up 28.5% from 64,275 cases in 2007-2011.

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 10 — In the last decade, about 30 per cent more Malaysians died from cancer, a manageable chronic disease in some developed nations, a new survey found.

The Malaysia National Cancer Registry Report (MNCRR) 2012-2016 reported a total of 82,601 medically certified and non-medically certified cancer deaths from 2012 to 2016, 28.5 per cent more cases than the collective 64,275 recorded cases from 2007 to 2011.

Medically certified deaths are certified by medical practitioners part of the Malaysian Medical Council (MMC), and involves medical officers, district health officers and coroners. Non-medically certified death, on the other hand, are certified by police officers, medical assistants and other informants.

Citing data by the National Registration Department, the MNCRR 2012-2016, which was published last Friday, said the number of medically certified deaths gradually increased from 2012 to 2016, from 9,466 cases in 2012 to 11,966 cases in 2016. A similar trend was observed from 2007 to 2011 in the previous MNCRR.

The number of non-medically certified deaths also increased from 2012 to 2016 — from 5,257 deaths in 2012 to 6,731 deaths in 2016 — but the figures remained relatively unchanged from 2007 to 2011, ranging from 4,449 to 4,853 deaths.

From 2012 to 2016, the overall percentage of medically certified cancer deaths was 64.3 per cent and 35.7 per cent for non-medically certified cancer deaths. The percentages did not change from the earlier MNCRR 2007-2011.

Meanwhile, Malaysia reported an increase of about five percentage points in cancers detected in the late stages, from 58.8 per cent of cases (31,020) in 2007 to 2011, to 63.7 per cent of cases in 2012 to 2016 (37,339).

Staging was reported for 58,635 cancer cases in the 2012 to 2016 period, of which 9,102 (15.5 per cent) were in Stage 1, 12,194 (20.8 per cent) in Stage 2, 13,384 (22.8 per cent) in Stage 3, and 23,955 (40.9 per cent) in Stage 4.

For the 2007 to 2011 period, a total of 103,507 new cancer cases were reported, of which only 52,794 (51 per cent) had reports on staging. A total of 9,029 cases (17.1 per cent) were in Stage 1, 12,445 (23.6 per cent) in Stage 2, 12,135 (23 per cent) in Stage 3, and 18,885 (35.8 per cent) in Stage 4.

The trend is also observed in several common cancers that may be detected by early screening, including breast cancer — which is the most common cancer among Malaysian women across race. Late-stage cases recorded a two percentage point increase for Stage 3, and a 2.7 percentage point increase for Stage 4, in the 2012-2016 period compared to 2007-2011. Stage 1 and Stage 2 breast cancer cases in women, on the other hand, saw a decrease of 2.4 percentage points and 2.5 percentage points respectively in both periods.

A similar trend was noted in reported staging for the following cancers that may be detected by early screening, and genders: colorectal (both genders); nasopharynx (both gender), and cervix uteri (female). All three cancers are commonly found in Malaysian men and women. For prostate cancer — which saw the highest increase of new cases in Malaysian men from 2012 to 2016 — a slight decrease was recorded in Stage 3 detections.

Health director-general Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah last week said the increase in late-stage detection in cancer cases was worrying, noting the October 2018 Malaysian Study on Cancer Survival finding that the later cancer is detected in a person, the lower their survival rates are.

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