Background: Globally, the overall incidence of cancer is increasing as a result of ageing populations and changing lifestyles. Cancer is one of the leading causes of death, especially in the developed nations. Cancers affecting the young population are generally considered uncommon. This study assessed the demography and trends of cancers of the young in Brunei Darussalam, a small and developing Southeast Asia nation. Materials and
Methods: All patients diagnosed with cancers between 2000 and 2012 were identified from the cancerregistry maintained by the State Histopathology Laboratory. Cancers of the young was defined as any cancers diagnosed under the age of 40 years. Demographic data and the type of cancers were collected and analysed using SPSS Statistics 17.0.
Results: Among the 6,460 patients diagnosed with cancer over the study period, 18.7% (n=1,205) were categorized as young with an overall decline in the proportion from 26.6% in 2000 to 18.8% in 2012 (p<0.001 for trend). Among all cancers of the young, the most common systems affected were gynecological (24.1%), hematological/lymphatic (15.8%), subcutaneous/dermatological/ musculoskeletal (10.5%), breast (10.5%) and gastrointestinal (9.9%). Overall, among the different systems, neurological (54.9%) had the highest proportion of cancers of the young followed by gynecological/reproductive (30.6%), hematological/ lymphatic (39.9%), endocrine (38.7%), subcutaneous/dermatological/ musculoskeletal (22.3%) and the head and neck region (20.1%). There was a female predominance (66.9%) and the incidence was significantly higher among the Malays (20.1%) and expatriates (25.1%) groups compared to the Chinese (10.7%) and indigenous (16.8%) groups (p<0.001 for trend).
Conclusions: Cancers of the young (<40 years) accounted for almost a fifth of all cancers in Brunei Darussalam with certain organ systems more strongly affected. There was a female preponderance in all racial groups. Over the years, there has been a decline in the overall proportion of cancers of the young. Selective screening programs should nevertheless be considered.