Hong Kong faces colorectal disease threat, says study Hong Kong Chinese have been identified as the highest risk group in Southeast Asia for colorectal cancer, the third most common cancer worldwide, according to a pioneering study by the Chinese University and other researchers in the region. The Chinese University team said it believed that both genetic factors and an unhealthy diet made Chinese people living in Hong Kong more vulnerable to the disease, which is the second most common cancer in the city, killing more than 1,500 people a year. Last week the Department of Health released a survey showing that only one in five people in Hong Kong ate enough fruit and vegetables to maintain a healthy diet and that 40 per cent of the working population was overweight. The Chinese University study of 5,055 people of different races from 14 Asian cities in eight countries showed that 18.7 per cent of Chinese study subjects were diagnosed with colorectal cancer or pre-cancer polyps. The six-month study, launched in November last year, included both healthy adults and those with symptoms of pre-cancer polyps. The rate was triple that of Indians (5.4 per cent) and nearly double the rate of Thais (10.1 per cent). The rates were 8.6 per cent in Filipinos, 12.1 per cent in Malaysians and 12.7 per cent in Indonesians. Among Chinese study subjects, 11.3 per cent of those living in Hong Kong were diagnosed with advanced colorectal tumours - which was four times the rate in Taiwan (2.7 per cent). The rates in Singapore and Guangzhou were 4.1 per cent and 7.9 per cent respectively. Joseph Sung Jao-yiu, chairman of the department of medicine and therapeutics at the Chinese University and a member of the research team, said he strongly believed that Chinese were more genetically prone to developing colorectal polyps compared to other races in Southeast Asia. The risk further increased along with the unhealthy lifestyle among Hong Kong Chinese, such as lack of exercise and a western diet. 'Colorectal cancer is very much a cosmopolitan disease which is found less in rural areas and less-developed countries. Lack of exercise, excessive intake of red meat and insufficient consumption of fibre are strongly believed to increase the risk of colorectal cancer,' said James Lau Yun-wong, director of the endoscopy unit at the Chinese University-associated Prince of Wales Hospital. In Hong Kong, the life-time risk of colorectal cancer is one-in-21 for men, or 4.8 per cent, which is almost comparable with the 6 per cent rate in the west, according to medical professor Leung Wai-keung. The rate in women in the city is about 2 per cent, compared to 3 per cent in the west. Dr Leung warned that the rate of colorectal cancer in Hong Kong had jumped so rapidly that it would soon outstrip rates in the west. He called on people to make an effort to improve their diet and to undergo regular screening.