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3 Mount Elizabeth
Mt Elizabeth Medical Centre #07-08, Singapore 228510

Tel: +65 6836 5480
Fax: +65 6836 9523

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  Age & the colon
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Age & the colon

Timely and regular screening can save your life against this most common cancer.

The older we get, the greater our chances of developing colorectal cancer. Between 2009 and 2013 in Singapore, the incidence for both men and women began to go up in the 30s, rising very steeply from the 40s to the 80s.

According to data from the Singapore Cancer Registry, there were 8,931 new cases of colorectal cancer diagnosed from 2009-2013. This translates to slightly more than 1,700 new cases diagnosed each year. Chinese men and women had a higher chance of developing colorectal cancer compared to their Malay and Indian counterparts. Most cases were Stage II or III and were aged 55 years or older. Men had a slightly higher risk than women of the same race. Most people diagnosed with colorectal cancer are older than 45 years of age. Those who are diagnosed before they reach 20 years of age are likely to have the hereditary form of colorectal cancer.

The bottom line is this: colorectal cancer is now the commonest cancer in Singapore. Most colorectal cancers develop from adenomatous polyps. Over many years, these polyps grow, often asymptomatically, until they develop into cancer. If we detect and remove these early, we can effectively prevent the development of colorectal cancer.


There are many symptoms. Blood in the stools or an abdominal mass are often the most obvious and worrying. Other symptoms, however, may be more innocuous, such as a change in your bowel habits, reduced stool calibre or even prolonged abdominal distension and pain. In most cases, these symptoms may also be associated with other benign conditions so proper assessment by a medical professional is essential.

If there is a strong family history of colorectal cancer or polyps, especially in a family member under age 50, your risk of colorectal cancer increases. Speak to your family doctor about screening earlier.


A personal history of previous colorectal polyps or colorectal cancer; a personal history of inflammatory bowel disease such as ulcerative colitis; a family history of colorectal cancer and/or familial adenomatous polyposis or hereditary non-polyposis colorectal cancer.


Early detection is the key. The Ministry of Health recommends that healthy individuals with no symptoms should start screening for colorectal cancer from 50 onwards. Screening methods include annual faecal occult blood tests, colonoscopy, CT (computed tomography) colonography and doublecontrast barium enema. Screening for colorectal cancer has been proven to save lives, whether from removal of polyps or the early detection of cancer.


Lead a healthy lifestyle by keeping active and exercising. Cut down on red meat and processed meat and quit smoking. Maintain a balanced diet. Eat sensibly and exercise regularly. Try not to overindulge especially during the festive season. Consciously opt for a balanced intake of fluids and fibre. Consult your family doctor immediately if there are any symptoms. Most importantly, ensure you undergo the recommended type of screening if you are over 50.
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