Colon cancer, the leading cause of death among cancer patients in Taiwan for 12 consecutive years, is most prevalent in southern Taiwan, with one in nearly 200 people suffering from the disease, a study has found.
In 2018, 497 per 100,000 people in southern Taiwan (the Yunlin/Chiayi/Tainan area) suffered from colon cancer, followed by 467 in greater Taipei (the Taipei/New Taipei/Keelung/Yilan/Kinmen/Matsu area) and 420 in the Kaohsiung/Pingtung/Penghu area, the Society of Colon and Rectal Surgeons (SCRS) said on Friday when publishing the results of a study based on data collected from the National Health Insurance Program.
That same year, there were 369 colon cancer patients in central Taiwan (the Taichung/Changhua/Nantou area), 365 in northern Taiwan (the Taoyuan/Hsinchu/Miaoli area), and 354 in eastern Taiwan (the Hualien/Taitung area).
A further analysis found that an average of one out of every 200 people in the Yunlin/Chiayi/Tainan area could have colon cancer -- 1.4 times the number in the Hualien/Taitung area -- with one in six patients being diagnosed in the fourth stage.
SCRS Chairman Wang Jaw-yuan said the Yunlin/Chiayi/Tainan area also has the highest mortality rate from colon cancer -- 57 per 100,000, ahead of 49 in the Kaohsiung/Pingtung/Penghu area.
Although the Hualien/Taitung area has the lowest rate of colon cancer, it ranked third for fatalities, with 43 per 100,000 people, Wang noted.
Habitually eating salty foods and sweet snacks and failure to identify colon cancer in its early stages could explain why the disease is usually determined in the final stages, according to Wang.
That could also explain why the mortality rate in Hualien and Taitung counties is relatively high, he said.
Chang Zong-kun, a surgeon at Kaohsiung Medical University Chung-Ho Memorial Hospital, said colon cancer can be prevented by consuming more vegetables and fruit as well as maintaining good living habits.
He recommended that individuals over 50 should take advantage of a free check up every two years provided by the government to prevent the disease.
In the event they develop intermittent diarrhea, constipation or weak urine flow, they should make an appointment to see a doctor as soon as possible, he added.