46 CANCER CONTROL 2021
Cancer control in the Eastern
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