Breast cancer cases doubled in 10 years

DUBAI — Experts have said that breast cancer cases in the UAE have almost doubled over the past 10 years with more and more younger women, both nationals and expatriates, suffering from the disease.


Asma Ali Zain

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Published: Fri 15 Oct 2010, 12:25 AM

Last updated: Thu 11 Jul 2024, 3:53 PM

They said that breast cancer generally appears to be increasing in the Arab world and is also a leading cause of cancer-related deaths among women.

According to the recent figures, 299 cases of breast cancer were diagnosed in 2008 and 312 in 2009. As many as 102 cases had been diagnosed from January to April this year.

During a forum organised to raise awareness during the Breast Cancer month by the UAE Ministry of Health on Wednesday, doctors said the disease appears to occur more in younger Arab women as compared to those in the US.

“This is because of the shift in risk factors such as diet and lifestyle making women more prone to breast cancer,” said Dr Hassan Jaafar, Consultant Oncologist at Al Tawam Hospital. Improvement in healthcare standards in developing countries also indicates an increase.”

Tawam Hospital recorded 126 cases of breast cancer in 1998, which increased to 255 in 2008, including 49 cases in women younger than 40 years. “This figure is higher than any younger population in the world, reflecting the aggressiveness of the disease in the region,” said Dr Jaafar. At present, breast cancer comprises 18.4 per cent of all cancer cases in the UAE.

In 2009, the highest number of cases was diagnosed in Abu Dhabi where 51 per cent of women aged 45-49 were found to be afflicted. Nearly 17 per cent of women were diagnosed both in Dubai and Sharjah, according to the Breast Cancer Registry in Tawam Hospital.

However, there is not much difference between the cancer occurrence in nationals and expatriates due to demographic factors, said Dr Jaafar. In 2009, 69 UAE nationals were diagnosed with the disease as compared to 240 expatriates in the same year.

As per the cancer registry in Dubai Hospital, 355 cases had been registered from 2004 to 2008 with only two male cases. “Most cases are presented at an advanced stage and a high proportion is younger women,” said the doctor while speaking about challenges.

Dr Hajer Al Hosani, Head of the Central Mother and Childcare Department at the Health Ministry, said that cultural and social educational barriers also stopped women from seeking early prevention. The UAE’s National Breast Cancer Screening Programme has screened around 84,000 women since it was launched in 1998 with a cancer detection rate of 6/1000 which is compatible with international rates, said Dr Hosani. “The target is to screen 242,000 women aged 40 and above,” she said.

She also said that the programme was implemented in all emirates except Ajman. “The programme is, however, facing challenges in the form of lack of local expertise and allocation of resources,” she said. “However, it has been expanded to Primary Healthcare Centres so as to reach more women while seven screening units have been installed since the start of the programme.”

The UAE Minister of Health, Hanif Hassan, said the ministry would continue the national programme that would benefit from local experiences and international expertise, especially from the UK, Canada and the USA.

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