Cancer Registration in Basrah-Southern Iraq: Validation by Household Survey


Department of Community Medicine College of Medicine, University of Basrah Basrah, Iraq.E-mail:


On an international scale, the burden of cancer in absolute numbers continues to increase, mainly due to aging of population in many countries, the overall growth of the world population, changing lifestyle with increasing cancer-causing behavior, like cigarette smoking, changing dietary habits and sedentary life. Cancer is the second-leading cause of death and disability in the world, after only heart disease. Recently, increasing incidence and mortality of cancer have also become evident in the developing world. In Iraq and particularly in Basrah in the southern part of the country, the burden has definitely increased and deserves extensive research. The present paper is part of an extensive household survey carried out in Basrah in 2013. Among the objectives was to validate official cancer registration in the governorate. The cross-sectional survey had a retrospective component to inquire about the incidence of cancer and cancer-related deaths during the three years preceding the date of inquiry (2010-2012). A convenient sample of 6,999 households with 40,688 inhabitants using multistage cluster sampling was surveyed involving all urban and rural areas of Basrah. The official cancer registration activities in Basrah seemed to have attained a high level of registration coverage (70-80%) but the gap, represented by missed cases, is still high enough to criticize the system. Most of the missing cases were either not notified by treating facilities or they were diagnosed and treated outside Basrah. Using a set of parameters, the pattern of cancer was consistent based on data of the household survey and data of the cancer registry but a gap still existed in the coverage of incident cancer and mortality by cancer registration. Integrated serious steps are required to contain the risk of cancer and its burden on the patient through improving the registration process, improving early detection, diagnostic and management capabilities and encouraging scientific research to explore the hidden risk factors and possible causes of low registration coverage. Periodic household surveys seemed feasible and essential to support routine registration.