National Cancer Registry Report revealed that colorectal cancer (CRC) is the second most common malignancy after breast cancer in Malaysia. It is the first among male. Associate Professor Dr. Raja Affendi Raja Ali, Consultant Physician and Gastroenterologist, Head of Gastroenterology and Hepatology of The National University of Malaysia pointed out that Malaysians are at high risk of suffering from colorectal cancer as compared to other South-east Asian countries, especially after the age of 40 years old.
This is because Malaysians practise unhealthy lifestyle, where only 6% of them consume adequate fruits and vegetables. A diet which is high in animal products is low in fibre and it is associated with increased risk of colorectal cancer. Fibre-rich fruits and vegetables make the intestine environment healthier and provide phytochemicals and vitamin E that act as antioxidants. Processed meat such as ham, sausage, and workshop-cured meat products promote carcinogenesis and can stimulate colorectal cancer development considering that they contain high level of nitrate for preservation and flavouring.
This is where community pharmacists can play a key role in raising awareness of colorectal cancer. Pharmacists have the opportunity to help patients by suggesting colorectal cancer screenings and follow-up care for those patients found to be at elevated risk. It is important for pharmacists to encourage and consistently reinforce healthy lifestyles by discouraging inactivity, heavy alcohol consumption, tobacco use, diets high in red meat and encouraging consumption of vegetables and fruits.
In conclusion, colorectal cancer is a mostly preventable illness, in which it could be avoided by embarking on a healthy lifestyle and regular participation in colonoscopy screening.
Written by: Chong Cheng Jun