Tackling cancer burden in the Middle East: Qatar as an example

Lancet Oncol. 2012 Nov;13(11):e501-8. doi: 10.1016/S1470-2045(12)70461-8. Epub 2012 Oct 19.


Cancer prevalence is increasing in the Middle East, partly because of increased life expectancy and adoption of western lifestyle habits. Suboptimum delivery of health care also contributes to late diagnosis and poor survival of people with cancer. Public awareness of cancer risk is frequently low and misconceptions high, thereby preventing patients from seeking treatment early and constituting a substantial barrier to improvement of cancer outcomes. Screening programmes might have low uptake in Arab populations because of social and health beliefs about cancer. This review outlines the opportunities available to Middle Eastern countries and their emerging economies to learn from global experiences in cancer care, service provision, and research partnerships. The Middle East has begun to develop several health-care transformation programmes. Qatar, in particular, has published a National Health Strategy, in which cancer is one of the main commitments; this Strategy provides the focus of this review. The development of effective health-care strategies and evidence-based medicine directly linked to innovative cancer research is needed to improve cancer care. Although the full extent of the proposed solutions are not necessarily implementable in all Middle Eastern countries, wealthy states can lead derivation of population-specific approaches that could have effects throughout the region. Key challenges are outlined-namely, human capacity and training, subspecialisation of services, building on international cancer research initiatives, and the need for earlier diagnosis and awareness in the population. Countries in the Gulf Region (ie, countries bordering the Persian Gulf, including Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, UAE, and Oman) need to address these challenges to be at the forefront of integrated cancer care and research and ensure that the latest innovations and best possible care are delivered to their populations.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Arabs
  • Biomedical Research
  • Delivery of Health Care*
  • Developing Countries
  • Disease Management
  • Early Detection of Cancer
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms* / economics
  • Neoplasms* / epidemiology
  • Neoplasms* / therapy
  • Qatar / epidemiology
  • Socioeconomic Factors