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More young people at risk of getting brain cancer
Singapore Created: 20 Aug 2008
OUT of 13 brain-cancer patients seen by Dr Keith Goh in the last four months, seven were below 45.

The trend, according to the consultant neurosurgeon, is increasing at an alarming rate. He is also seeing younger Singaporeans with brain tumours, including a six-month-old child.

Better known for his part in the separation of Nepalese conjoined twins Ganga and Jamuna Shrestha, Dr Goh told my paper: "The trend is unmistakable. It was not like this 10 years ago."

In the past, the median age for patients diagnosed with brain cancer was between 50 and 60 years old. However, signs are showing that it has shifted to the early 40s.

Dr Goh, who is also a paediatric neurosurgeon, added: "It seems that there is something in the environment that may be causing cell transformation, which leads to the development of cancer. The cells of younger people are more vulnerable to toxins and they can transform to become cancerous."

One of the likely reasons mentioned by Dr Goh, 47, is the increased cellphone usage here.

According to a study by the Swedish National Institute for Working Life, heavy cellphone users face an increased risk, especially on the side of the head where the phone is held, Dr Goh added.

Noting that Singapore has at least six million mobile phone subscribers, one of the highest in the world, Dr Goh said: "It has to be the electromagnetic radiation or the thermal heat that's causing the tumour."

Speaking to reporters last week, he also introduced a new drug, Nimotuzumab. It is undergoing clinical trials for head and neck cancer. Compared to conventional treatment - surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy - which provides patients with a 40 per cent survival rate, the new treatment offers a 75 per cent chance. Dr Goh is the first doctor here to administer the new drug.
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Source: AsiaOne, CALVIN YANG, 19 Aug 2008

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