Cancer alert as unhealthy Hongkongers ignore warning signs

40pc of adults too fat and most eat badly, with no improvement in the past decade

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 23 April, 2015, 12:14am
UPDATED : Thursday, 23 April, 2015, 2:44am

Hongkongers have done little over the past 10 years to cut their risk of developing cancer, with almost 40 per cent of adults classified as being overweight and more than 80 per cent not eating enough fruit and vegetables.

Lack of exercise contributed to the 39 per cent of overweight adults - those with a body mass index of 23 or above - last year, according to the behavioural risk factor survey the Department of Health has conducted annually since 2004. The figure has never been below 36 per cent.

More than 60 per cent of the annual sample size of at least 2,000 respondents aged 18 to 64 did not meet the World Health Organisation recommendation of performing at least 150 minutes of moderate or 75 minutes of vigorous physical activity a week.

And while the department recommends people eat five servings of fruit and vegetables a day to reduce the risk of chronic disease, 81 per cent failed to do so in 2014. This figure was 82.3 per cent in 2004 and the line has stayed almost flat since then.

But people are drinking and smoking less. The rate of binge drinking - those knocking back at least five cans or glasses of alcohol at one sitting - dropped from 10.2 per cent in 2004 to 6.8 per cent; the smoking rate fell from 15.7 per cent to 10 per cent.

"There is room for improvement in people's behaviour … in fact, we are not doing well now," said the director of health, Dr Constance Chan Hon-yee.

The Department of Health has launched a cancer prevention campaign to raise awareness of the importance of healthier living. "At least one-third of all cancer cases are preventable through a healthy lifestyle," said Chan, citing data from the WHO.

A third of all deaths in the city in 2013, some 13,589, were caused by cancer. With the launch of a colorectal cancer screening programme by the end of the year, the government hopes its target group - those aged 61 to 70 - will be aware of the need for screening with the publicity campaign.

The government is also commissioning a university to conduct a study to identify breast cancer risk factors among local Chinese. Results will not be released until after 2016.