Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Oral cancer a rising concern among aging Malaysians

NST: KUALA LUMPUR: The incidence of oral cancer increases with age, the National Cancer Registry 2003 shows. Indians are more susceptible and Indian women aged 50 and above face the greatest risk.
And the culprit is betel-nut chewing and consumption of alcohol, the Health Ministry’s dental health director Datuk Dr Wan Mohamad Nasir Wan Othman said yesterday.
A total of 38.6 Indian women per 100,000 population aged between 50 and 59 may develop oral cancer.
This figure triples among those aged 60 to 69 and increases to 102 cases for those above 70.
Comparatively, only 4.9 cases of oral cancer per 100,000 were recorded among Chinese women aged 70 and above while in the case of Malay women it was 5.1.
Among Indian men, the rate is slightly lower than that of Indian women, but very high compared to Malay and Chinese men.
A total of 14.4 Indian men per 100,000 population develop oral cancer in their 50s but the figure nearly triples when they reach their 60s, with 38.1 cases
This figure goes up further when they are in their 70s with 60.6 cases per 100,000, compared to Malay men (5.1) and Chinese men (4.9) of the same age group.
Dr Wan Mohamad Nasir said because those at risk were a concentrated group, the ministry targets high-risk areas to conduct screenings.
"That is why we target only specific groups to do oral can cer screening. These are people who chew betel-nut and also consume alcohol," he said.
Also present was Deputy Health Minister Datuk Dr Abdul Latiff Ahmad, who earlier opened the National Dental Health Conference at the Institute of Health Management.
The conference is to re-study the National Oral Health Plan, mooted in 1999, which is to be implemented in 2010.
"Although we are satisfied that the overall objectives of the plan have been met, there are still areas for improvement, especially in developing human capital and improving accessibility to orthodontists in the smaller towns," he said.
A copy of the plan, published in 2002, said there were areas with "serious oral health problems and inadequate availability of resources" as there were many changes including an aging population which retained their teeth, and rapidly changing disease patterns.
Earlier, in his speech, Dr Latiff said one of the successes of the plan was improved dental health in schoolchildren.
He said, last year, 40 per cent of six-year-olds were free of caries — a bacterial infection which causes mineral loss on the tooth surface — compared to 20 per cent in 1997.
In 16-year-olds, 46 per cent were caries-free.
"For those aged 35 to 44, a large number have managed to retain their full set of teeth."

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