Cancer. What You Can Do To Prevent ItEach day, 36 people are told that they have cancer. Cancer remains the No.1 principal cause of death in Singapore for the past few years and it remains the top cause of death with one in three dying of cancer. There has been a worrying rise in the country’s top killer disease.

Cancer cases have jumped by about 17 percent since 2010, despite certain cancers being preventable if people choose healthier lifestyles and drop bad habits.

Based on the latest figures released by the National Registry of Diseases Office, 13,416 people were diagnosed last year with cancer. The year before, the number was 12,651 and in 2010, it was 11,431.

Breast cancer is the most common cancer among women in Singapore. From 2010 to 2014, about 1850 women were diagnosed with breast cancer each year, and it accounts for 18% of cancer deaths in women (1).

With the rise in the number of cases of lifestyle diseases, the Singapore Government has introduced higher subsidies for disease detection tests during the Parliamentary session in April 2016, primarily for diabetes and cervical cancer screening, in the effort to increase early detection and early treatment. On 4th October 2016, Singapore launched its first “Pink Train” aimed at raising awareness of breast cancer.

Despite the rising numbers and the Government’s efforts to boost awareness and encourage the public to take measures to lead an active lifestyle as part of disease prevention measures, many Singaporeans are still not engaging in physical activities that are enough to reap any long-term health benefits.

Associate Professor Lim Soon Thye, head of the division of medical oncology at the National Cancer Centre Singapore, said experts estimate that four in ten cases of cancer may be preventable. This is provided that people adopt certain lifestyle habits (such as not smoking, maintaining healthy body weight, having a balanced diet with regular exercise, reducing or stopping alcohol and going for vaccinations).


How Is Physical Activity Related To Health?


Researchers have established that regular physical activity can improve health by:

  • Keeping healthy weight
  • Maintaining healthy bones, muscles, and joints
  • Reducing the risk of developing high blood pressure and diabetes
  • Promoting psychological well-being
  • Reducing the risk of death from heart disease
  • Reducing the risk of premature death (2)

There is convincing evidence that physical activity is associated with a reduced risk of cancers of the colon and breast. Several studies also have reported links between physical activity and a reduced risk of cancers of the prostate, lung, and lining of the uterus (endometrial cancer).

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend that adults “engage in moderate-intensity physical activity for at least 30 minutes on five or more days of the week,” or “engage in vigorous-intensity physical activity for at least 20 minutes on three or more days of the week” (2).


What Should I Do For My Physical Activity?


The ACSM recommends a comprehensive program of exercise including cardiorespiratory, resistance, flexibility, and neuromotor exercise, of sufficient volume and quality as outlined in this document for apparently healthy adults of all ages.

In addition to exercise, each of us should aim to reduce the total time spent in sedentary pursuits and include short bouts of physical activity and standing between perioregular physical activity can improve healthds of sedentary activity.

Based on the National Cancer Institute in the United States, they have found that there are positive effects of physical activity on various cancers, with research done namely on colon, breast, endometrial (uterus), lung and prostate cancer. Generally, this is because of the influence of physical activity on the level of hormones, energy balance, insulin-like growth factors, immunity, antioxidant defense mechanisms and most importantly, management of body composition.

The exercise prescription is best adjusted according to individual responses because of the considerable individual variability in the response to a program of exercise. Exercise is beneficial only if a person engages in it.

The aim for personalised training is to focus on individual preferences, enjoyment, incorporating health behavior theory and behavior changing strategies into exercise counseling and programs, so as to enhance adoption and short-term maintenance of regular exercise. The supervision of an experienced fitness professional can enhance adherence to exercise and likely reduce the risk of exercise in those with elevated health risks. Adults, especially novice exercisers and persons with health conditions or disabilities, likely can benefit from consultation with a well-trained fitness professional.


* Principal Causes of Death, Singapore Health Facts.

(1) Singapore Cancer Registry. Interim Annual Report, Trends in Cancer Incidence in Singapore 2010-2014.
(2) National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 1996. Physical Activity and Health: A Report of the Surgeon General. Retrieved June 26, 2009, from:


Quantity and Quality of Exercise for Developing and Maintaining Cardiorespiratory, Musculoskeletal, and Neuromotor Fitness in Apparently Healthy Adults: Guidance for Prescribing Exercise.
Sharp rise in number diagnosed with cancer. Janice Tai. 21 June 2015.

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