22 April 2015
The Department of Health (DH) today (April 22) launched a new publicity campaign on cancer prevention and screening with the academia, medical professionals and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to raise public awareness on primary and secondary prevention of cancer in preparation for the roll-out of the Colorectal Cancer Screening Pilot Programme (CRC SPP) by the end of 2015 the earliest.
Epidemiology and primary prevention
Chairing the press conference today, the Director of Health, Dr Constance Chan, said, "The cancer burden is increasing both globally and locally. According to the World Health Organization, there were 14 million new cancer cases and 8.2 million cancer-related deaths in 2012 worldwide. In Hong Kong, cancer accounted for 13 589 cases, about one-third of registered deaths, in 2013."
In 2012, the five major newly diagnosed cancer cases were lung, colorectal, breast, liver and prostate cancers, while the leading causes of cancer deaths were cancers of the lung, colorectum, liver, stomach and breast.
"At least one-third of all cancer cases are preventable through a healthy lifestyle, such as eating more fruit and vegetables, but less red meat and processed meat, exercising regularly, avoiding alcohol and refraining from smoking. Primary cancer prevention by adopting a healthy lifestyle is the most cost-effective strategy for the control of cancer," Dr Chan said.
Major risk factors
Reporting the latest findings of the DH's Behavioural Risk Factor Survey (BRFS) 2014 among randomly sampled persons aged from 18 to 64, the Controller of the Centre for Health Protection (CHP) of the DH, Dr Leung Ting-hung, said that inadequate intake of fruit and vegetables, obesity and inadequate physical activity were local major risk factors. All sectors hence need to do more for primary cancer prevention.
Among respondents, 81.0 per cent did not consume fruit and vegetables adequately, 39.0 per cent had a Body Mass Index of 23 or above (i.e. overweight or obese), and 62.5 per cent did not do an adequate amount of physical activity. Turning to alcohol and tobacco, 6.8 per cent had done binge drinking, that is drinking at least five glasses or cans of alcoholic drinks on one occasion over the past one month, and 10.0 per cent were daily smokers of one or more cigarettes.
Secondary prevention and screening
Also attending the press conference, the Dean of the Faculty of Medicine of the Chinese University of Hong Kong, Professor Francis Chan, spoke on the concept of secondary prevention of cancer by screening and early detection to pick up cancer before signs or symptoms appear, or at early stages. It is important for early diagnosis, early and more effective treatment, and preventing the progression of illness.
"Of note, screening may not be suitable for everyone and every cancer. All screening tests have limitations and are not 100 per cent accurate. There are false positive and false negative results. Some may involve risky procedures. Individuals should consult a doctor for assessment and understand more on benefits and risks before making an informed choice," Professor Chan said.
While individualised screening is initiated by members of the public and the balance of pros and cons should be considered by the individual and the doctor, population-based screening refers to simple tests systematically offered by the government to a large group of population to identify those with cancer or at higher risk for prompt and appropriate treatment.
The Dean of the Li Ka Shing Faculty of Medicine of the University of Hong Kong, Professor Gabriel Leung, said, "Population-based screening must be based on facts, scientific evidence and public interest. A number of factors should be carefully considered, such as prevalence of the disease, accuracy and safety of the test, effectiveness in reducing mortality and morbidity, feasibility, cost-effectiveness, and public acceptance."
Currently, the DH's territory-wide Cervical Screening Programme in collaboration with healthcare professionals launched in March 2004 encourages women aged from 25 to 64 with sexual experience to receive regular cervical screening.
In addition, the CRC SPP to be launched by end of 2015 at the earliest will build upon primary care and public-private partnership to subsidise specific age groups for a two-tier screening, initially by fecal immunochemical test (FIT) followed by colonoscopy if the FIT result is positive, in response to the rapidly increasing burden of CRC in Hong Kong.
Healthy League publicity
Launching the campaign, the Head of the Surveillance and Epidemiology Branch of the CHP, Dr Regina Ching, introduced the Healthy League comprising seven lovely mascots, among which the leader, Captain AC (Captain Anti-Cancer), promotes cancer prevention together with Greenie, Airy, Buddy, Bright, Sporty and Joy respectively on healthy eating (CRC), tobacco control (lung cancer), alcohol avoidance (liver cancer), cancer awareness (breast cancer), physical activity (prostate cancer), and healthy weight management (gynecological cancer).
The Healthy League provides a positive and lively way to deliver health messages on cancer prevention and appeals to the younger generation via various channels, including television, radio, newspapers, magazines, posters, website and social media.
The Healthy League appears in a newly created Facebook Page ( www.fb.com/HealthyLeague ), the "Prevent CRC" thematic website ( www.colonscreen.gov.hk ) and in other health education materials. Captain AC also joins the two Deans of the Faculty of Medicine in two new Announcements in the Public Interests (APIs) premiered at the press conference and to be broadcast later today on television and radio as well as the above thematic website ( www.colonscreen.gov.hk/en/videos ).
The executive summary of the BRFS 2014 has been uploaded to the CHP's publications online ( www.chp.gov.hk/en/guideline1/29.html ) and the latest issue of the Non-Communicable Diseases Watch titled "To Screen or Not to Screen for Cancer" has also been published ( www.chp.gov.hk/en/view_content/1636.html ).
Representatives from the Cancer Coordinating Committee (CCC), the Cancer Expert Working Group on Cancer Prevention and Screening under the CCC, the Hong Kong Academy of Medicine, the Hong Kong Medical Association, the Hong Kong Doctors Union, the Hong Kong Anti-Cancer Society, the Hong Kong Cancer Fund and the Hong Kong Breast Cancer Foundation witnessed the launch of the campaign today.