Healthy lifestyles help in Hong Kong cancer fight
- An ageing society means it is only natural that more people will come down with the disease and, despite the latest medical measures, it is up to us all to avoid harmful habits and achieve a better work-life balance
Projections of exponential growth in cancer cases amid a rapidly ageing society such as Hong Kong may sound alarmist. The city is, after all, among the top in terms of life expectancy but, if the trend over the past decade is any guide, a precautionary warning of the potential burden to society makes sense. The message is clear – do whatever we can to avoid such a scenario or be prepared for the adverse consequences: overloaded hospitals, astronomical medical spending and ever-growing demand for health care professionals.
That more people have been diagnosed with colorectal, breast and lung cancers in recent years is just a fact we have to live with. According to the Hong Kong Cancer Registry, a record 31,468 new cases emerged in 2016, up 1,150 from the previous year. Taking into account demographic changes and trends, the number of new cases may jump two-fifths, or 40 per cent, by 2030.
With one in three people aged 65 or above by 2043, it seems only natural more people will come down with cancer or some other disease. But it need not be the case if we start a healthy lifestyle today. Indeed, many cancers are preventable with healthier diets and exercise, along with regular physical check-ups and medication.
It is good that the government has stepped up efforts regarding the latter. Universal screening for specific age groups is being carried out to help reduce colon cancer, as are studies on whether to do the same for breast cancer. Separately, harmful habits such as smoking and underage drinking are being tackled with tougher measures.
Welcome as they are, policies and measures alone will not help unless individual citizens take their health seriously. It pays to maintain a healthy lifestyle such as avoiding fast food and exercising regularly. This is easier said than done, though. The city’s obsession with success and reward means work-life balance is still an afterthought for many. Life for children is just as stressful under our oppressive education system. Even if we live longer, we may not necessarily live healthier.
Alarmist or not, the projection comes as a timely prescription for more concerted efforts to prepare for the future. Ageing is inevitable; but cancer is preventable.