On Oct. 18, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) embassy in Washington, DC, in partnership with the American Cancer Society, hosted an event to celebrate the release in this country of the inaugural edition of The Cancer Atlas in Arabic -- as well as celebrate the UAE's upcoming Relay For Life event.
The Cancer Atlas is a comprehensive guide that consolidates research from 185 countries, outlining the global cancer landscape. The Cancer Atlas is used by cancer control advocates, governments, private and public health agencies and policy makers, as well as patients, survivors, and the general public, in order to promote cancer prevention and control worldwide.
Healthcare leaders and senior diplomats also gathered to celebrate the UAE's first Relay For Life event, happening in November. The 24-hour event will raise funds to support cancer patients and their families in the UAE, and is being organized by the Sharjah-based Friends of Cancer Patients (FoCP) Society in collaboration with the ACS. The FoCP launched the Arabic version of The Cancer Atlas in the UAE in November 2016.
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates the number of annual cancer diagnoses in the Middle East in the next two decades will nearly double. The UAE is working closely with international healthcare organizations to implement preventative measures, increase early detection of the disease, and facilitate world-class treatment in the country and broader region.
Ahmedin Jemal, DVM, PhD, the lead author of The Cancer Atlas and our vice president, Surveillance and Health Services Research, said the new edition would give access of knowledge and prevention tactics to Arabic speakers who wouldn’t have it otherwise. He also said it would “reduce the gap between the have and the have nots” in terms of awareness and knowledge about cancer.
ACS Board Chair Arnold M. Baskies, MD, who served on a panel discussion at the event, said the UAE's new tax on tobacco and sugary drinks will contribute to the fight against cancer. Both obesity and diabetes are critical challenges for the UAE population in preventing cancer.
Dr. Baskies suggested that the widespread smoking of shisha, popular in the UAE, across the Middle East and North Africa and even in the U.S., will come into sharp focus. “We learned the hard way how to stand up to the tobacco industry in this country [the U.S.] and other countries are now learning it,” he said.
The rapid development of the UAE coupled with rising living standards has been linked to a rise in lifestyle-related diseases, including a diet often reliant on highly processed food.
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. Health Authority Abu Dhabi figures show, 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.
UAE Ambassador to the U.S. Yousef Al Otaiba emphasized the importance of partnering with leading global institutions, like ACS, to help educate the public and raise funds to fight against cancer.
"With over 4,500 people diagnosed each year, cancer is one of the leading causes of premature death in the UAE," Ambassador Al Otaiba remarked. "By working with organizations like ACS, healthcare professionals in the UAE can give physicians and regulators better tools to educate the public about this terrible disease, encourage more regular screening and early detection, and raise much needed funds to support patients and families."
The event included a panel discussion which outlined the UAE's developing healthcare system and public health initiatives, such as its cancer awareness and prevention efforts. The panel was moderated by Ambassador Sally G. Cowal, senior vice president of Global Cancer Control at ACS, and panelists included, Dr. Baskies, MD, ACS Board chair; Tomislav Mihaljevic, incoming Cleveland Clinic CEO and president; and Ahmedin Jemal, DVM, PhD, the lead author of The Cancer Atlas and our vice president, Surveillance and Health Services Research.
The ACS began its relationship with the UAE through a partnership with The FoCP Society in 2014. FoCP is a non-profit organization located in the Emirate of Sharjah, dedicated to raising cancer awareness and providing medical assistance to improve the quality of life of those affected by cancer. ACS's partnership with FoCP led to the translation of The Cancer Atlas into Arabic, as well as the UAE's first Relay For Life.
The UAE seeks to become a major center for world-class health care in the Middle East, for not only its own residents, but also for those in the region. The UAE has partnered with many leading global institutions to help in developing its healthcare system. Panelist Tomislav Mihaljevic, MD, who previously held the position as head of Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi, outlined how the UAE is capitalizing on its strong strategic relationship with U.S. healthcare institutions to bring expert care to the country and region.
"Cleveland Clinic is extremely proud to provide world-class care in the United Arab Emirates and help patients facing serious medical conditions at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi," said Dr. Mihaljevic. "I commend the UAE government for their commitment to enhance cancer services in the region that will enable patients to receive clinical excellence close to home."
Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi (CCAD) opened in Abu Dhabi in 2015, bringing some of the world's best surgeons to the UAE.
The Tobacco Atlas, which researchers from ACS help author, was first published in Arabic in 2013.
PHOTOS: Pictured in the top photo from left: Sally Cowal, Dr. Baskies, Tomislav Mihaljevic, and Ahmedin Jemal. Pictured in the smaller image is our CEO Gary Reedy with Yousef Al Otaiba, UAE ambassador to the U.S.