Research Highlights

Arab women suffer more aggressive breast cancer

Published online 30 September 2013

Aisha El-Awady

Breast cancer is one of the major causes of cancer-related deaths in women and has become the most common malignant disease among Arab women.

Lotfi Chouchane and Konduru Sastry of Weill Cornell Medical College in Qatar, along with Hammouda Boussen of the Abderrahman Mami Hospital in Tunisia, reviewed the scientific literature on breast cancer in Arabs to look into genetic risk factors and specific molecular features of the disease, publishing their findings in Lancet Oncology1.

They found that the incidence of breast cancer is on the rise in the Middle East and North Africa. It also appears in Arab women on average at least 10 years earlier than it does in women in Europe or the United States. Additionally, when the disease is first discovered, Arab women are found to have a more advanced stage of the disease with larger tumours.

Some Arab populations were found to have a higher incidence of breast cancer spreading to the lymph nodes in the armpit and a type of cancer where the cancer cells had no receptors for oestrogen hormone. Genome-wide association studies and expression profiling found these discrepancies also existed at the molecular level.

The team recommends more studies in which high-throughput technologies are used to better understand the biological, pathological, and genetic features of breast cancer in Arab women.


  1. Chouchane, L. et al. Breast cancer in Arab populations: molecular characteristics and disease management implications. Lancet Oncology 14, 417-24 (2013) | Article |