Cancer Epidemiology and Control in the Arab World - Past, Present and Future


The Arab world, stretching from Lebanon and Syria in the north, through to Morocco in the west, Yemen inthe south and Iraq in the east, is the home of more than 300 million people. Cancer is already a major problemand the lifestyle changes underlying the markedly increasing rates for diabetes suggest that the burden ofneoplasia will only become heavier over time, especially with increasing obesity and aging of what are now stillyouthful populations. The age-distributions of the affected patients in fact might also indicate cohort effects inmany cases. There are a number of active registries in the region and population-based data are now availablefor a considerable number of countries. A body of Arab scientists are also contributing to epidemiologicalresearch into the causes of cancer and how to develop effective control programs. The present review covers therelevant PubMed literature and cancer incidence data from various sources, highlighting similarities and variationin the different cancer types, with attempts to explain disparities with reference to possible environmental factors.In males, the predominant cancers vary, with lung, urinary bladder or liver in first place, while for femalesthroughout the region breast cancer is the greatest problem. In both sexes, non-Hodgkins lymphomas andleukemias are relatively frequent, along with thyroid cancer in certain female populations. Adenocarcinomas ofthe breast, prostate and colorectum appear to be increasing. Coordination of activities within the Arab worldcould bring major benefits to cancer control in the eastern Mediterranean region.