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25 Nov 2019

25th Nov 2019

Prof Chia Kee Seng, Advisor, Singapore Cancer Registry

Family members of the late Prof Shanmugaratnam,

Colleagues from the National Registry of Diseases Office

Distinguished Guests,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

1. Good afternoon, I am happy to be here today for the launch of the Singapore Cancer Registry 50th Anniversary Monograph.

2. The Singapore Cancer Registry (SCR) was founded in 1968, and is the oldest of our four registries for non-communicable diseases. Through the pioneering work of its founder, the late Emeritus Professor K Shanmugaratnam, what started as a simple card index registry at the National University of Singapore’s Department of Pathology in 1950 has grown into a robust population-based cancer registry.

Contributions of the Registry to Cancer Control

3. Cancer has significant social and economic impact on the patients, their families, the healthcare system and the society. Today, cancer is the leading cause of death in Singapore. Data from the Singapore Cancer Registry showed that in the last 50 years, the total number of cancer diagnoses has increased nearly six times from over 12,000 in the five-year period of 1968 to 1972, to over 70,000 between 2013 and 2017, largely because of Singapore’s growing, and ageing population.

Cancer Prevention and Control

4. The World Health Organization recognises population-based cancer registries, such as the SCR, as a cornerstone of cancer control strategy. A robust cancer surveillance system can provide a better understanding of the scale and profile of cancers in Singapore, and is instrumental in developing an appropriate framework for action – be it for primary prevention, early detection or in the delivery of cancer treatment. It also allows us to assess the efficacy of cancer control measures and the healthcare system as a whole.

5. Take cervical cancer as an example. It has improved from being the second most common cancer among females in the 1970s to the tenth place in 2017. To drive further improvement, we have included the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination in the National Childhood Immunisation Schedule and National Adult Immunisation Schedule. More recently, we have also introduced fully-subsidised HPV vaccination in schools for more comprehensive coverage. HPV vaccination is recommended for females as it can provide effective protection against cervical cancer.

6. On the other hand, we have observed that breast cancer continues to be diagnosed late. The rate of late stage breast cancer diagnosis has remained around 28%. This underscores the importance of early screening. While we have increased the accessibility and affordability of breast cancer screening, we will need to intensify our efforts to encourage women to go for regular screening.

7. The Registry’s data also helps us to better evaluate our efforts. For breast cancer for example, HPB has partnered the Breast Cancer Foundation (BCF) to roll out the BCF Encouragement for Active Mammograms (BEAM15) in 2013 to provide free mammogram screenings. As of July 2019, nearly 50,000 low-income Singaporean women have benefitted from the programme. Through the Registry’s data, we found out that BEAM15 has helped 85% of their participants with breast cancer to detect it early at Stages I and II. This is crucial for cancer survivorship. With such encouraging results, BEAM15 was extended for another two years, and BCF would provide $1 million to fund at least another 20,000 mammograms.

Cancer Research

8. Continued innovation and research remain crucial in the fight against cancer. The Registry has supported many research initiatives with comprehensive data on localised cancer trends, without which many would not have been able to come to fruition. Some examples include the significant work done to link the Registry’s data with the Singapore Chinese Health Study cohort, which resulted in many noteworthy studies on diet, lifestyle and genes in relation to cancer risk. These collaborations reinforce the relevance of the Registry to public health and the wider scientific community.


9. Our progress and achievements today in understanding and treating cancer could not have been possible without the efforts of the late Emeritus Professor Shanmugaratnam in founding the Singapore Cancer Registry, and the subsequent contributions from many people past and present, including many of you here with us this afternoon. I hope all of you will continue to keep up the good work and continue to improve the quality of cancer care. Congratulations once again to the Registry on its 50th anniversary monograph. Thank you.

Category: Speeches Highlights