Dubai: The prevalence of cancer, which has more than doubled in the past ten years in the UAE, is likely to register a specific rise in the region by 2020, said a leading oncologist at the seventh UAE Cancer Congress.

The three-day event (October 29-31) is being held under the patronage of Shaikh Hamdan Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Deputy Ruler of Dubai and Finance Minister. It is supported by the Shaikh Hamdan Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Award for Medical Sciences and has attracted hundreds of health care professionals from across the Middle East and Asia.

“A meteoric rise in population, ageing, and [adopting] a Western lifestyle are some of the reasons for the rise in cancers in not just the UAE but in the GCC [too],” Dr Dr Shaheenah Dawood, consultant oncologist with the Dubai Health Authority (DHA) and head of the Scientific Committee told Gulf News. “One would expect that by 2020, there will be a twofold increase in cancers.”

One of the most exciting aspects of the conference is the focus on immune therapy treatments that are using the body’s immune system to inhibit malignancy and also a new kind of molecular profiling of tumours and molecular investigations of malignancies which have given rise to specific personalised treatments tailored to the needs of an individual.

There is a need for doctors to adopt the multidisciplinary approach as cancer is invasive, said Dr Dawood. She also said that people should be more vigilant and well-informed, advising self-examinations and regular screenings once a year.

“The median age for breast cancer in this region is 35-45, which is about ten years earlier than the median age in the US where breast cancer screening is advised at the age of 40-50,” she said.

While inaugurating the conference, Humaid Al Qutami, Chairman of the Board and Director-General of the DHA, drew the attention of the audience to the challenge that cancer posed. He said: “Despite advancements in human development, globally, we all face the challenges of chronic diseases such as cancer, which according to the WHO, is one of the leading causes of morbidity and mortality worldwide. In 2012, approximately 14 million new cases and 8.2 million cancer related deaths were recorded globally. This reinforces the magnitude of the problem and calls for health care institutions to focus on research, multidisciplinary treatment of the disease and a need for sustained community outreach to raise awareness about the need for regular screening and leading a healthy lifestyle.”

The Cancer Congress is being attended by oncologists, gastrointestinal experts, pulmonologists, dietitians and geneticists, owing to the multidisciplinary nature of the disease.