There was a large increase in cancer cases in GCC nations between 2008 and 2017, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
Figures released in March at The Economist-hosted War on Cancer conference in Dubai show UAE cancer rates increasing by 62% in that period, and by 49% in Saudi Arabia, largely a result of increased screening and improved diagnosis.
In Bahrain, cancer has grown by 29% and in Oman by 14%. The global average increase in cancer rates was 16%, according to a report in the newspaper The National.
A third of cancer-related deaths are linked with five behavioural and dietary risks: being overweight, a lack of fruit and vegetables in the diet, a sedentary lifestyle, and smoking and alcohol use.
Dr Shada Al Ghazali, head of cancer prevention and control at the Department of Health Abu Dhabi, said a national cancer registry – due to be published this year – will show incidence and mortality rates.
“We have been working on collecting data for the past six years to create a model that will evaluate patient information related to age, gender and family history,” Dr Al Ghazali said.
“By using artificial intelligence, this model will help us to screen patients and their risk and allow earlier diagnosis with a better outcome.”
The Department also hopes to improve medical records from the birth of a person to enable monitoring healthcare interactions with doctors and hospitals throughout the patient’s life.
Dr Azad Moopen, managing director at Aster Healthcare, said improved screening of lower-income workers, who make up a large percentage of the population, must also be improved. He said, “According to our data, most of these people do not have access to cancer prevention information or to actual care if it is detected.
“Many of them are high-risk smokers with a poor diet. Free screening and health information programmes in labour camps could improve this area.”
The reports also noted that education on cancer should begin at a younger age to focus on prevention rather than treatment. M