Alarming rise in lung cancer among non-smokers in UAE
In addition to smoking, exposure to radon gas, air pollution and having a family history can increase the chances of lung cancer.
Smoking accounts for 80 to 90 per cent of the causes of lung cancers, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, however lung cancer from new forms of smoking including Midwakh, second hand smoke, lifestyle factors and genetic disorders have recently been observed as a more recognisable risk factors causing the rise of lung cancer in the UAE.
"There's been a misconception that only smoking causes lung cancer. However, it is to be noted that in addition to smoking, exposure to radon gas, air pollution and having a family history can increase the chances of lung cancer," said Dr Humaid Al-Shamsi, A consultant medical Oncologist at Tawam Hospital, Al Ain and the president of the UAE Oncology society, who is extending his support in creating awareness about lung cancer caused by factors other than smoking for a campaign run by Takeda - a global, R&D-driven pharmaceutical company that is expanding its product offerings in oncology. Focusing its research efforts on oncology, the company is committed to bringing better health and a brighter future to patients by translating science into life-changing medicines.
According to Dr Alshamsi, having a parent or sibling who's had lung cancer increases the risk twice as likely to develop the condition as those without any family history, and the risk is even higher if a relative was diagnosed at a young age. There are more than 140 -150 cases per year in UAE that represent lung cancer, and around 40 to 50 per cent of these cases have reached an advanced stage, which is not curable.
In addition, there has been an increase in population of smoking in the last 20 years in the UAE. In contrast, the rate of smoking in the USA has declined for the first time by 60 per cent compared to 1960 as per a study published few days ago.
"While lung cancer is more prevalent with the male population, there has been an increase in number of women who smoke hookah, increasing the chances of this life-threatening medical condition even with the female population," added Dr Humaid Al-Shamsi.
Lung cancer is a malignant lung tumour characterised by uncontrolled cell growth in lung tissue with symptoms such as coughing, weight loss, fatigue and chest pain. The two types of lung cancers are small-cell lung cancer (SCLC) and non-small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC). The NSCLC type accounts for almost 80 percent of the total lung cancers. The cure rates depend on the stage of cancer detection with rates varying by 55 percent for first stage to just 1 per cent for stage four.
"While smoking is the primary cause of cancer, there are a good number of patients, around 15-20 per cent who have no exposure to smoking and yet suffer from the medical condition. In an effort to ensure that such individuals have access to right treatment at the right time, Abu Dhabi and Al Ain have introduced a programme to screen heavy smokers over the age of 50, with a history of smoking for at least 10-15 years. They can qualify for CT scan of the chest to make sure there is no early cancer," said Dr Humaid Al-Shamsi.
"At Takeda, we drive innovation in the three selected areas of Oncology, Gastroenterology, and Neuroscience, plus Vaccines. Oncology is one of the therapeutic areas where we endeavour to deliver novel medicines to patients with cancer worldwide through our commitment to improving the lives of patients. Lung cancer is a niche area where we are working to leverage on our world-class capabilities aiming to boost our research and development in this segment," added Maged Kamel, Executive Director Medical & Regulatory Affairs, Takeda Near East, Middle East Africa region 'NEMEA'.
Healthcare and pharmaceutical companies in the UAE are taking necessary steps to educate smokers, as well as non-smokers about the importance of these screening programmes. While the programme is dedicated for all individuals who are at a risk of lung cancer, healthcare professionals are currently working with the young population to reduce the chances of this serious medical condition.