Current and future cancer burden in Saudi Arabia: meeting the challenge

Hematol Oncol Stem Cell Ther. Oct-Dec 2008;1(4):210-5. doi: 10.1016/s1658-3876(08)50006-9.


Background and objectives: Despite the low cancer incidence in Saudi Arabia, the country must be ready to face the challenge of a foreseeable increase in cancer burden mainly attributed to the growth and aging of the population. We designed this study to estimate the future cancer burden and to highlight the demands on prospective healthcare resources.

Methods: Cancer statistics in Saudi Arabia from 2000 to 2004 were examined. The Joinpoint regression program was used to identify changes in secular trends, while the GLOBOCAN 2002 software projected future burden. Considering current trends and the growth and aging of the population, we projected the future burden.

Results: In 2004, the age-standardized rate (ASR) for incidence for all cancer sites, excluding basal and squamous skin cancer, was 57.2 per 100000 (55.8 and 59.1 per in males and females, respectively). ASR trends showed a statistically significant increase in the annual percent change (APC) for both males and females, which was greatest from 2003 to 2004 (4.93% and 2.64%, respectively). By the year 2020 and 2030, there would be an approximately 6- and 10-fold rise among males as compared with the burden in 2004. The corresponding numbers for females would be 5- and 8-fold, respectively. The highest cancer burden would be expected for middle-aged and elderly Saudis.

Conclusions: In countries currently experiencing low cancer rates, the future cancer burden could increase considerably and place enormous demands on healthcare resources. The present study may provide an impetus to examine the future all or site-specific cancer burden, particularly in developing countries.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Saudi Arabia / epidemiology
  • Young Adult