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Speech by Secretary for Health, Welfare and Food


Following is a speech (English only) by Secretary for Health, Welfare and Food, Dr Yeoh Eng-kiong, at the Opening Ceremony of the 4th International UICC Symposium on Nasopharyngeal Carcinoma today (February 14):

Prof Johnson, Prof Chan, Prof King, Dr Leong, Dr O'Sullivan, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a great pleasure to be here this morning to welcome you all to the 4th International UICC Symposium on Nasopharyngeal Carcinoma, which is held jointly with the 8th Annual Scientific Symposium of the Hong Kong Cancer Institute. I am pleased to see so many overseas and local cancer researchers and clinicians gather here at this three-day symposium to share knowledge and experience in tackling the wide range of issues arising from the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of Nasopharyngeal Carcinoma (NPC).

We are particularly pleased to learn that Sir Anthony Epstein, discoverer of the Epstein-Barr virus in 1964, is present here today to deliver the opening lecture to delegates. I would like to extend our warmest welcome to Sir Anthony and other distinguished speakers of the Symposium, who have come from many different places to enrich us with their knowledge and insights.

Although NPC is relatively uncommon in the western countries, it is a prevalent malignancy in areas such as southern China, Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia and Taiwan. In Hong Kong, the age standaridsed incidence rates for NPC per 100 000 population are 25.1 for males and 9.7 for females. It has been one of the ten leading causes of cancer mortality here since 1960s and was responsible for the deaths of about 400 people each year over the past few decades. Since Hong Kong has a relatively high incidence rates for this type of cancer, our healthcare professionals have developed considerable experience and contributed significantly to the understanding of this disease and its various treatment modalities.

Local and international research studies on NPC show that this type of cancer may be the result of both genetic susceptibility and environmental factors such as carcinogens and infection with Epstein-Barr virus. It is suggested that in Southern China, where the incidence of NPC is high, diet may be a crucial factor in the development of this disease, particularly the ingestion of Cantonese-style salted fish and preserved foods containing carcinogenic nitrosamines. Knowledge of these environmental risk factors will help reduce the incidence of NPC in the longer run through the promotion of a healthy lifestyle.

This international symposium not only provides a unique opportunity for healthcare professionals around the world to discuss innovative solutions and state-of-the-art technologies relating to the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of NPC, it also helps us arouse greater public awareness of the disease, thereby contributing to the prevention and treatment of this disease. I would like to congratulate the Local Organising Committee for successfully bringing this international event to Hong Kong. I am sure that under their meticulous planning, all participants of the symposium will have much to learn and benefit from each other from its wide range of scientific programmes over these three days. Moreover, for those delegates from overseas countries and other parts of China, I hope you would find your stay in this dynamic and vibrant city most enjoyable and rewarding.

With these remarks, I have pleasure in declaring the 4th International UICC Symposium on Nasopharyngeal Carcinoma officially open. Thank you.

End/Friday, February 14, 2003


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