Kidney failure rates are shooting up among Malays here, with their risk – already higher than the other races – going up by 50 per cent over the past decade.
Ten years ago, Malays had twice the risk of getting kidney failure, requiring either a transplant or dialysis, compared to Chinese, and 1.5 times compared to Indians.
Today, their risk has grown to almost triple that of Chinese and more than twice that of Indians.
The latest figures are from 2014 since it takes two years to confirm a diagnosis. They show that the age standardised rate, which takes into consideration the age at which kidney failure hits, was 643 per million people for Malays, compared to 224 for Chinese and 274 for Indians.
Dr Marjorie Foo, head of renal medicine at the Singapore General Hospital, said the high rates of kidney failure among Malays could be because more of them suffer from diabetes and high blood pressure – both risk factors – compared to the other races.
Professor A. Vathsala, a senior nephrologist at the National University Hospital, added: “We believe that late diagnosis of diabetes, perhaps a higher proportion of smokers among Malays and obesity contribute to the increased risk of kidney disease among Malays in Singapore.”
In absolute numbers for 2014, kidneys failed in 1,109 Chinese, 408 Malays and 118 Indians.
A study of 58,000 diabetic patients at the National Healthcare Group Polyclinics from 2006 to 2009 found that among the three major ethnic groups here, Malays had the highest incidence of diabetic kidney failure while Indians, in spite of poorer control of diabetes than the other races, fared best.
The researchers, who published their findings in the journal Nephrology, suggested this could be caused by delayed diagnosis in Malays resulting in more advanced complications, coupled with Malays having low levels of exercise and the highest incidence of smoking.
According to the National Kidney Foundation, Malays make up 30 per cent of patients undergoing dialysis at its centres.