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Middle East Partnership Funds Pioneering Breast Cancer Study

University of Sydney
March 24, 2015

The Faculty of Health Sciences has partnered with the Al Qasimi Foundation to improve breast cancer screening and awareness in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

Breast cancer typically occurs in women in the Middle East 10-15 years earlier than in Western countries and appears to be more aggressive. Cancer lesions are more difficult to detect in scans of dense breast tissue typical of younger women, and, additionally, Middle Eastern women may be less likely to participate in screening for cultural and religious reasons.

A consequence of these differences means that once cancer is detected, it is often more advanced, and the woman's prognosis is likely to be much poorer.

The study will compare archival mammography scans of 500 women from Ras Al Khaimah in the UAE with scans of 500 women from New South Wales, Australia. One hundred women from Ras Al Khaimah will also be asked to complete a questionnaire to investigate the beliefs, awareness, and attitudes of Arab women around breast cancer screening. 

The research has received a high level of attention in the UAE, with researchers meeting with His Highness Sheikh Saud bin Saqr Al Qasimi, ruler of Ras Al Khamiah, and the Australian Ambassador to the UAE and Qatar, HE Mr. Pablo Kang.

Professor Patrick Brennan, Dr. Martin Mackey, Dr. Zakia Hossian, PhD student Salman Albeshan, and Sandra Margon, Office of Global Engagement, travelled to the UAE in December 2014 to launch the study, which is a part of a broader engagement strategy of the Faculty of Health Sciences in the Gulf region identifying partners in the UAE, Qatar, and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

The study is funded by the Al Qasimi Foundation and supported by the Council for Australian-Arab Relations, a division of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.