Lifestyle factors that increases the risk of bowel cancer in older men

Cancer, Older Adults

According to the report in The Star paper dated 27 Oct 09, bowel cancer is now the most common cancer in Malaysian men. For women, it is ranked third after breast and cervical cancers.

The increasing rate is attributed to:

  • Affluent and sedentary lifestyle
  • Lack of dietary fibers and physical activities
  • Other risk factors: chronic inflammatory bowel disease, intestinal polyps and strong family history.

It is now proven that being active physically and higher intake of vegetables and fruits plays a vital role not only on overall health but prevention of certain cancers. Since digestive system cancers such as bowel cancers are getting more common, and largely preventable if there is one opts for a healthy lifestyle, why not make it a firm resolution for change?

Especially if you have a strong family history of cancers that may genetically predispose you towards cancer, we need to do what we can to prevent.

It is not surprising that in the newspaper report, the cancers are more common amongst the Chinese in Malaysia compared to other races. I would not say all, but a number of Chinese uncles that I observed have most of these attributes:

  • Is almost addicted to bak kut teh- a medicinal soupy dish that is oily, served with fatty pork meat and lots of MSG (monosodium glutamate). Other dishes are hokkien fried, a noodle fried with lots of pork oil.
  • Shy away from fruits and vegetables- try to get them to get their vegetables and you will get a scowl from them. Sometimes, the wife would not dare to push too much because the husband is often the sole breadwinner (and allowed to get their own way)
  • Love to slump by the couch and watch TV when at home, especially the Chinese drama series shown in cable television
  • Not being physically active- they may be very active working during their younger days but the labor intensive jobs are often taken over by their Indonesian or Bangladesh workers. They just stay around to supervise
  • Like to drink beer, even during daytime. So they tend to develop beer bellies- and feel sluggish
  • Have the tendency to be constipated because do not believe in bowel training, impatient to spend too long in the loo and tend to hold on urges to pass motion

Now that the awareness is getting stronger, I have started seeing older men starting to exercise in the gym or going for jogs/walks in the park. But those who embarked on a more healthy lifestyle still consist of the more well read and educated group, who after reading about the dangers of being sedentary in internet, magazines and newspaper, saw the need to make a lifestyle change. Those who would rather switch on the telly to watch drama and television than to read the daily papers. And even if they read, they often skip sections on health and instead focus on the politics (I always hear them talk louding in old fashioned coffee shops about corrupt politicans and reminiscing about tales of yesteryears.).

What worries me a lot are the uncles who are illiterate/ less educated who do not read a lot and is not aware of the potential dangerous paths that their chosen ignorance is leading them to.

There are still hope- in the form of their children. Many of these uncles worked hard to bring up and educate their children. If you are one of them and reading this article, I hope you can play the role of educating your dad if he had lead an unhealthy lifestyle. They may not listen to their wives (your mom) and call them nags but dads would almost always have a soft spot for their children. You can sponsor a gym membership for them or drag them along with you or schedule time for evening/weekend exercises.

(To read the report by The Star paper, go to this url:

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