Cancer Epidemiology in South-Western Asia - Past, Present and Future


South-West Asia, stretching from Lebanon and Syria in the north, through to Yemen in the south and Iraq inthe east, is the home of more than 250 million people. Cancer is already a major problem and the markedlyincreasing rates for diabetes suggest that the burden of adenocarcinomas will only become heavier over time,especially with increasing obesity and aging of what are now still youthful populations. The age-distributions ofthe affected patients in fact might also indicate cohort effects in many cases. There are a number of activeregistries in the region and population-based data are now available for a considerable number of countries.Scientists from the region are also contributing to epidemiological research into the causes of cancer and how todevelop effective control programs. The present review covers the relevant PubMed literature and cancerincidence data from various sources, highlighting similarities and variation in the different cancer types, withattempts to explain disparities with reference to environmental factors. In males, the most prevalent cancersvary, with lung urinary bladder or liver in first place, while for females throughout the region breast cancer isthe major problem. In both sexes, non-Hodgkins lymphomas and leukemias are relatively prevalent, along withlung in males and thyroid in certian female populations. Coordination of activities within the Arab world, aswell as Israel, could bring major benefits to cancer control in the eastern Mediterranean region.