2007 News Story

Study shows sharp rise in breast cancer to near-epidemic levels

Breast cancer has seen a sharp rise in Saudi Arabia, escalating the disease to near-epidemic levels, experts said, Saudi Gazette reported today.

Breast cancer has become the most common form of cancer in Saudi Arabia, comprising 20 percent of all cancer cases in the country, and the numbers are expected to increase in the future, the English daily reported .Doctors blamed lifestyle choices of Saudi women and the effects of rapid economic development on local diet for the rise.

“There are 600 to 800 new breast cancer patients a year, and we believe that this number is probably underestimated because it will take years for statistics to be complete,” Dr.Ezzeldin Ibrahim of the King Faisal Specialist and Research Hospital in Riyadh told the daily.

What worried doctors is the relative young age of breast cancer patients in the country.  The average age of the Saudi sufferer is 40, and only 10 percent are over 50, compared with Western societies where the median age is about 65 years.

Obesity is a major cause of breast cancer.  Thirty-three percent of Saudi women are obese.  Experts attribute the obesity problem to a change of diet over the past thirty years.  The Saudi diet has changed from mainly whole-wheat flour, dates and milk to a diet high in calories, protein, fat and refined carbohydrates.  Heath experts say more needs to be made to educate the public about the link between diet and breast cancer.