Region has higher risk of aggressive breast cancer: Study

September 23, 2013 - 2:54:25 am

Dr Chouchane

DOHA: Women in the Middle East often suffer from more aggressive forms of breast cancer than their Western counterparts, researchers at Weill Cornell Medical College in Qatar have found.

Arab populations have some particularities in terms of cancer, especially breast cancer, and clinical features of breast cancer among Arab women are different from other populations, according to the research. 

WCMC-Q’s Assistant Dean for basic science curriculum, Dr Lotfi Chouchane, was lead author of the research report. 

“Inflammatory breast cancer is the most lethal form of the disease and constitutes 1-2 per cent of all breast cancer tumours in the US,” said Dr Chouchane.

“But a higher proportion of cases are reported in Arab populations. For example in Tunisia, seven to 10 per cent of all breast cancer is inflammatory. Similarly, in a population-based study in the Gharbiah region of Egypt, inflammatory breast cancer was confirmed as more prevalent than in the US, constituting up to 11 per cent as opposed to 1-2 per cent in the US.”

Breast cancer is a major health problem in developed and developing countries and the research was published in the latest edition of The Lancet Oncology, an internationally respected medical journal. 

Co-authors were Dr Konduru Sastry, a research associate in microbiology and immunology at WCMC-Q, and Dr Hammouda Boussen from Tunisia.

The report found that the incidence of breast cancer was  lower in Arabic countries than in Europe and the US but was rising fast. 

The report also found breast cancers in women in Arab populations have different characteristics from those reported in women in the US and Europe.

At 48, the average age of presentation of breast cancer in Arab women is 10 years younger than patients in the US and Europe. 

The Lancet Oncology is a peer-reviewed and edited journal recognised for providing a global, authoritative, and independent forum for the highest quality clinical oncology research and opinion. With an impact factor of 25.12, it ranks among the top three oncology journals worldwide and is the leading clinical research journal in oncology, in the top 0.5 percent of all scientific journals of any discipline in the world.

Dr Chouchane said: “This report is going to be the reference for anybody who wants to undertake studies about breast cancer in Arab populations and researchers will refer to it because here we describe all the characteristics of breast cancer in Arab populations based on our findings and based on the literature found. 

“Although several awareness campaigns have been undertaken, no structured national programmes exist for population mammography screening in Arab countries,” Dr Chouchane said. 

“The cultural value of modesty and misconceptions about cancer, coupled with insufficient levels of education about breast cancer and difficulties in accessing healthcare facilities can often prohibit women from participating in breast screening. And this can lead to delayed detection.”

He said breast cancer mortality could be reduced if the disease was detected at an early stage by  implementation of proper awareness and screening programmes that would be possible in countries with sufficient resources. Dr Chouchane said further research on cancer should be given priority in Arab countries.

Dr Chouchane’s study was supported by the Biomedical Research Programme fund at WCMC-Q and grants from the Qatar National Research Fund. The rapidly expanding Research Department at WCMC-Q has established a state-of-the-art biomedical research programme focused on tackling the most pressing health needs in Qatar and the region.

The Peninsula