Following is a speech by the Secretary for Health and Welfare,Dr E K Yeoh, at the 37th Annual General Meeting of the Hong Kong Anti-Cancer Society (December 15):
Chairman and Members of the Society,
Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is my pleasure to address this Annual General Meeting of the Hong Kong Anti-Cancer Society.
Cancer is the number one major killer in Hong Kong, accounting for one-third of all deaths or a death toll of over 10 000 a year. There are about 19 000 new cancer cases each year. Although after discounting the factors of population increase and ageing population, the age-standardised incidence rate and mortality rate are declining in recent years, there is no room for complacency. Hong Kong's cancer incidence rates are high by Asian standards. And cancer is still one of, if not, the most dreaded diseases by all.
Combating cancer has been a priority item on our health agenda. The Hospital Authority has consolidated its network of clinical oncology service through the development and implementation of clinical guidelines and treatment protocols for common types of cancer in its five oncology centres. The Department of Health has extended the coverage of its Women Health Service to help detect the early signs of breast and cervical cancers. Our anti-smoking campaign has gathered momentum and received most encouraging community support. As at August 2000, 563 companies have pledged support to implement a smoke-free policy in their workplace.
Further plans to combat cancer are in the pipeline. We announced in this year's Policy Address our plan to enhance our anti-smoking efforts by setting up a Tobacco Control Office in the Department of Health in the coming year and launching a package of publicity and educational programmes to discourage smoking. We shall, in collaboration with health care providers in the public and private sector, launch a territory-wide cervical screening programme for women next year. To strengthen our knowledge base and capability in combating cancer, we shall establish a Cancer Co-ordinating Committee next year, with a view to developing an evidence-based long term preventive strategy for reducing cancer morbidity and mortality.
I am pleased to say that Government is not alone in the fight against the scourge of cancer. We are fortunate to have the support of voluntary associations such as the Hong Kong Anti-Cancer Society as our strategic partners. The Society plays a key role in promoting proactive prevention, early detection and effective treatment of cancer as well as hospice care services. Through its Cancer Research Laboratory, the Society has contributed a lot to the development of evidence-based clinical practices for treating various kinds of cancer patients. The development of genetic diagnostic test for nasopharyngeal and bronchial cancers, successful implementation of a novel scanning computer system for cancer cells, and identification of genetic and environmental risk factors for lung cancer are but a few examples. On cancer education, the Society has initiated various health promotion programmes to educate the public on the importance of healthy living and regular check-ups in reducing the risk of developing cancer. It also conducts regular visits to schools, community centres and workplaces to deliver the anti-cancer message to our young people.
I would be remiss if I do not mention the important role of the individual in cancer prevention. With the wealth of new epidemiologic, biologic and genetic information and tools, we are in a much better position to detect, treat and ultimately prevent cancer. We now know that the cause of many cancers is related to the lifestyle of an individual. For instance, tobacco consumption has proven to be causally associated with cancer in many bodily organs. Eating habits, particularly the consumption of animal fats, have also been identified as another major risk factor for cancer. A healthy life style is a key preventive measure. Remember the pursuit of good health starts with the individual.
Finally, I would like to convey my heartfelt gratitude to the Society for its remarkable achievements and invaluable contributions over the past 37 years, and I look forward to your continued support in the coming years.
END/Friday, December 15, 2000