‘Alarming’ number of young people in UAE & Saudi Arabia diagnosed with cancer
Young people across the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia are significantly more likely to be diagnosed with cancer than in countries such as the United States and the United Kingdom, according to a study.
Almost half of new cancer cases in both countries are of patients under the age of 50, the study revealed.
Of new cancer cases reported in the UAE, 45.4 per cent were in the 20 to 49-year-old age group. In Saudi Arabia, about 39.4 per cent of new cases were also in the same age group.
This is more than four times higher than in countries such as Canada, the US, and the UK, where 20 to 49-year-olds make up 8 per cent, 8.75 per cent and 8.33 per cent of new cases respectively, according to the study, ‘Higher and Increasing Incidence of Cancer between the Age of 20-49 Years in the UAE Population; A Focus Analysis of the UAE National Cancer Registry Data’.
The study found that incidences of cancer among young people in the UAE is rising year on year, with women more likely to be diagnosed.
Breast, colorectal, thyroid and leukaemia were the top-ranked cancers among all new cancer cases in both genders.
“The percentage of cancer incidence in this age group between 20-49 years of age in Saudi Arabia is 39.49 per cent which is comparable to the UAE, yet these incidence rates are extremely high compared with Canada (8 per cent), USA (8.75 per cent), United Kingdom 8.33 (per cent), China 16.15 (per cent) and India 26.75 (per cent),” said author Humaid al-Shamsi, an associate professor at the University of Sharjah’s College of Medicine.
“This percentage is alarming and requires further research to address the factors which lead to such extremely high incidence.”
The study analyzes data from the UAE National Cancer Registry (UAE-NCR) from the Ministry of Health and Prevention (MOHAP) from 2017 – the most recent year available – and compared figures to calculated data from the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) for Saudi Arabia, Canada, United Kingdom, China, and India, looking at 2020 figures.
Cancer screening is a vital component in reducing cancer mortality, yet utility and cost-effectiveness have not been evaluated fully in the younger population.
Some of the most common risk factors for cancer include smoking, sun exposure, poor diet, a lack of physical activity, or being overweight.
When looking at the UAE figures, one theory is that most of the population in the Emirates are younger expatriates from around the world, especially from Asia, with an estimated 65.9 per cent of the UAE population aged between 25 and 54 years of age.
However, having a younger expatriate’s population is unlikely to be the rationale for such a higher incidence of cancer in the 20 to 49-year-old age group.
When looking at Emirati citizens alone and excluding expats, then 37.2 per cent of new cancer cases were in the 20 to 49-year-old category.
Early screening of colorectal and breast cancer – which start at 40 in the UAE -might be a contributory factor, but lifestyle factors were likely to be the biggest contributor to high cancer rates.
“Increasing overall cancer incidence in younger adults is concerning, especially given that the current trends are projected to continue in future years.”
“Hereditary factors cannot explain the surge of such cases, likely environmental factors, physical activities, diet, obesity, infections and exposures occurring earlier in life, including in utero and early childhood may interplay into potential exosomal elements that increasing the incidences of cancer in this population and should also be considered when assessing cancer aetiology in young adults.”
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Blog originally published by Alarabiya News.