More work on cancer treatment and health education needed in UAE, doctors say

The changing landscape of healthcare requirements in the UAE is being driven by a rise in lifestyle-related cancers in both men and women.

While breast cancer remains the biggest killer in women, colorectal cancer is on the rise in both sexes, largely due to a drastic change in diet.

The rapid rise of the UAE as a country has seen life become easier for many – but that has also meant the population has become more sedentary and rely more on processed food.

According to Health Authority Abu Dhabi figures, colorectal cancer is now the most common form of the disease in men, and fourth on the list for women, behind cancer of the breast, thyroid and cervix.


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“In Abu Dhabi, an ID card should not be issued to a woman without a mammogram and, at 40, people should have a colonoscopy to check for cancer as it is a condition that is increasing,” said Dr Falah Al Khatib, a consultant clinical oncologist at City Hospital, Dubai, who was involved in the management of nearly 6,000 cancer cases out of 8,000 registered at Tawam Hospital during his 11 years there.

“Along with cervical and breast cancer, colorectal is one of the three areas of cancer that can be effectively screened for.

“We’ve made good progress on two fronts but we need to be more organised to cover more areas.”

HAAD figures from 2014 show 65 per cent of cancer-related deaths were among the expat population, and 56 per cent of the total were men, and 44 per cent women.

“Colorectal cancer is rising in both men and women but it is the number one cancer in men due to a changing diet and lifestyle,” Dr Al Khatib said.

“The local UAE diet has changed from wheat, dates, yoghurt and fresh fruit and vegetables to a more Western diet, with more processed food, fatty meat with hormones.

“There has been rapid change. The type of food brings with it constipation and that brings more toxins into the body.

“More checks in place on what we are eating would help, as would more control though education in families.

“There is less physical exercise and life has become a lot easier. The success of the UAE is slowly killing the UAE.”