Trends in epidemiology and management of breast cancer in developing Arab countries: a literature and registry analysis

Int J Surg. 2007 Aug;5(4):225-33. doi: 10.1016/j.ijsu.2006.06.015. Epub 2006 Aug 24.


Background: Registries and research on breast cancer in Arabic and developing countries are limited.

Methods: We searched PubMed, Medline, WHO and IAEA publications, national, regional, hospital tumor registries and abstracts. We reviewed and analyzed available data on epidemiological trends and management of breast cancer in Arab countries, and compared it to current international standards of early detection, surgery and radiation therapy.

Results: Breast cancer constitutes 13-35% of all female cancers. Almost half of patients are below 50 and median age is 49-52 years as compared to 63 in industrialized nations. A recent rise of Age-Standardized Incidence Rates (ASR) is noted. Advanced disease remains very common in Egypt, Tunisia, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Palestinians and others. Mastectomy is still performed in more than 80% of women with breast cancer. There are only 84 radiation therapy centers, 256 radiation oncologists and 473 radiation technologists in all Arab countries, as compared with 1875, 3068 and 5155, respectively, in the USA, which has an equivalent population of about 300 million. Population-based screening is rarely practiced. Results from recent campaigns and studies show a positive impact of clinical breast examination leading to more early diagnosis and breast-conserving surgery.

Conclusions: Breast cancer is the most common cancer among women in Arab countries with a young age of around 50 years at presentation. Locally advanced disease is very common and total mastectomy is the most commonly performed surgery. Awareness campaigns and value of clinical breast examination were validated in the Cairo Breast Cancer Screening Trial. More radiation centers and early detection would optimize care and reduce the currently high rate of total mastectomies. Population-based screening in those countries with affluent resources and accessible care should be implemented.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Arab World*
  • Breast Neoplasms / diagnosis
  • Breast Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Breast Neoplasms / therapy
  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Combined Modality Therapy
  • Developing Countries
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Mammography
  • Mass Screening
  • Mastectomy / statistics & numerical data
  • Population Surveillance
  • Registries
  • Risk Factors