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REGIONAL PERSPECTIVES

46 CANCER CONTROL 2021

Cancer control in the Eastern

Mediterranean Region

Ibtihal Fadhil, President, Eastern Mediterranean NCD Alliance

Cancer is a leading cause of morbidity and mortality in

the EMR. It is the fourth leading cause of death and the

second cause of non-communicable disease-related

death in the Region (2). According to the International Agency

for Research on Cancer (IARC), approximately 733,965 new

cancer cases and over 458,625 deaths were reported in the

EMR in 2020; a number that is projected to double by 2040,

making this region the one with the highest estimated increase

in cancer burden compared to all six WHO regions (3).

This increasing trend is mainly related to ageing and

population growth, but it is also due to a higher exposure to

risk factors such as tobacco use, unhealthy diets, air pollution,

physical inactivity and infections. The prevalence of obesity

in adults in the EMR remains high, particularly among women and children (4) with a high body mass index (BMI) and this

is expected to increase the incidence of colorectal, liver and

gastric carcinoma, particularly among males, and breast cancer

incidence among females (5).

Cancer control challenges

Currently over half of the EMR countries do not yet have

operational National Cancer Control Plans (NCCPs) (6). The

development of cancer programmes has been gravely affected

by political instability and humanitarian crises. Over half of the

EMR region is affected with acute and chronic emergencies and

political unrest, resulting in waves of migration, displacement

and the destruction of health services with negative impacts

on all cancer services (7).

This profile considers the state of cancer control in the Eastern Mediterranean

Region and the trends driving a worrying increase. It also considers the

challenges as well as the priorities of those addressing them.

Figure 1: Map of the EMR region

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