(MENAFN - Arab News) A proposal to evaluate the current status of HPV infection in the GCC countries was tabled at the 77th periodic executive body of the Council of Health Ministers of the Gulf Cooperation Council held in Riyadh yesterday.
Dr. Tawfik Khoja, executive director of the GCC Health Ministers Secretariat,who chaired the Saturday's meeting said that the proposed study was one of the technical issues taken up by the secretariat on the first day of the three-day meeting,which is being held in the capital. Human Papillomavirus, more commonly known as HPV, is a DNA virus which spreads through sexual contact. HPV consists of a group of over 100 different viruses, with at least 30 strains known to cause different types of cancer. The HPV group of viruses has a global prevalence of approximately 10-22 percent .
Over 100 types of HPV exist. Some HPV types are termed "low-risk" since they cause only benign skin warts, whereas high-risk types of HPV can cause anogenital cancers, particularly cervical neoplasia, or cervical cancer. Among high risk strains, HPV 16 and 18 are most common among cervical cancer patients (associated with 50.5 percent and 13.1 percent of cervical cancers, respectively). Most women are probably infected with at least one if not several types of HPV strains during their sexual life.
Most low-grade cervical lesions spontaneously regress, but approximately 10 to 13 percent will progress to a high-grade lesion, which will eventually put the individual at risk for invasive cervical cancer. Worldwide, every two minutes a woman dies of cervical cancer and each year more than 500,000 women will be newly diagnosed and more than 270,000 women will die.
Though the incidence of cervical cancer is lower in the Middle East compared with the rest of the world, most cases of cervical cancer are detected at a late stage when the disease may have become more advanced. Furthermore, in spite of the well-known benefits of the Pap smear test, a very small number of women in this region are tested annually, largely through opportunistic screening during a regular gynecologic examination. HPV related infections are less common in the Middle East region compared with the rest of the world, though the exact prevalence of HPV is not as well determined as it is for other countries. In recent years, several studies have attempted to study the prevalence of HPV in the general population in the Middle East region.
The Executive Board of the Health Ministers' Council for GCC States in a published a report in 2005 on "1998"2005 Cancer Incidence Report of Gulf Corporation Council States", which states that cervical cancer is the 11th most common cancer in the GCC states. The report further shows that between January 1998 and December 2005, there were 1,314 cervical cancer cases reported from all GCC states, accounting for 1.8 percent of all cancers and 3.6 percent of cancers among females.
The overall rate for women in all GCC States was 3.0 per 100,000 of the population. Qatar reported the highest incidence of cervical cancer (8.4 per 100,000 women) followed by Oman (7.8), Bahrain (6.5), UAE (5.9), Kuwait (4.5), and KSA (2.2). The UAE's Cancer Registry Program revealed that the annual average of the reported cervical cancer cases had tripled in 2005 when compared with that from 1998-2004.
Khoja said that that the executive body discussed today a number of technical issues including the fight against non-communicable diseases, health care quality services , patient safety, complementary and alternative medicine, and the establishment of Gulf preventive and curative advanced cancer patients center , and the establishment of Gulf centers for anti-smoking and health research priorities in common.
The executive director commended the health care services rendered by the Saudi government for the Haj pilgrims under the guidance of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah. He also wished King Abdullah to get well soon from surgery ,which is expected to performed on him at the King Abdul Aziz Medical City National Guard Hospital in Riyadh.
The meeting will also chalk out the agenda for the 44th GCC Health Ministers Council meeting scheduled to be held in Bahrain from January 9 to 10.