Iran: Cancer cases rising at an alarming pace in Al-Ahwaz
In Iran’s Al Ahwaz region, the population is facing a frightening growth in cancer rates. Al Ahwaz is threatened to be overwhelmed by a burgeoning cancer epidemic and despite an acute increase in cancer incidences no real urgent action is seen to be taken by the government authorities in cancer prevention, improvement of health-care systems and facilities, improvement of access to essential medical treatment, and the treatment of the poor Ahwazi Arab people. The Karoon River, the main water source for the Ahwazi people, is contaminated heavily due to direct discharge of untreated urban wastewater.
The wastewater that includes human and animal faeces also contains chemical substances coming from industrial factories in nearby cities causing the Karoon River to become ideal breeding ground for carcinogenic bacteria and viruses. Contact with such contaminated water through drinking, washing or bathing and being deprived of access to safe water poses dangerous health risks to the Ahwazi people.
The latest medical reports have previously confirmed that the leading cause of the outbreak of cancer, deadly and infectious diseases is the contamination of water and air in Ahwazi regions. In the last two decades, the deterioration of environmental conditions in Al-Ahwaz region is a result of sharp reductions in imported water, drought, and sandstorms, with this evidence, physicians have warned about rapid growth in cardiovascular diseases and cancer.
Dr. Pedram, former head of Shafa hospital of Ahwaz, on 15 October 1987 about the rapid growth and increasing cancer cases diagnosed in Ahwaz Shafa Hospital said: “The number of cancer patients in the region is increasing so that more than a thousand new cases of cancer in children and adults is registered each year.”
In a Etemad newspaper report, the new head of Ahwaz Shafa Hospital, a hospital for diagnosis and treatment of cancer, said that the growth of cancer has been increased by 500%. Dr. Shahrum Ebrahimi, cancer expert of Ahwaz Health Center stated: “among the more than a hundred types of cancers detected, 52 types of them were seen in deaths from cancer, which are more than deaths due to AIDS, T.B, and Malaria.”
There is little information about the dramatic growth of cancer in Al-Ahwaz region in the form of a few statements. The reason is, there is a ban on publication of any statistics about cardiovascular diseases and cancer and other diseases related to the current crisis of the Ahwaz environment by provincial authorities.
In order to investigate this phenomenon, we have collected statistics on the number of cancer patients in the region during 2004 to 2009 and processed them statistically using the official reports of the Ministry of Health and Medical Education.
Official statistics show that the number of women with cancer reached 858 people from 2004 and 2273 people from 2008 to 2009. The corresponding figure for men reached from 1069 people in 2004 to 2602 people in 2009.In the same years, the total cancer cases in the province reached from 1927 to 5047. Statistics show that the number of men and women with cancer had been steadily growing during 2004 to 2009. In the year of 2008 and 2009 however, an extreme jump is seen in a number of cancer patients. In this area, some figures already reported on the state of Ahwaz air pollution by fine particles show that concentration is ten times higher than normal in recent years.
Estimation of number of cancer patients
Official statistics were collected from 2009 to 2014 and using these statistics, we can estimate the number of cancer patients in the province with a reasonable error. Estimates suggest that, during the years 2004 to 2009, an average of 665 people has been added to the total number of new cancer cases.
The total number of cancer patients in Al-Ahwaz region during the years 2010 to 2013 is estimated at
Estimated number of cancer patients
According to estimates, the number of patients with cancer in 2013, in comparison with 2004, shows an increase of about 400%.
Cancer among women of Al-Ahwaz region
During the period that official statistics exist, the rate of cancer at the beginning and end of this period can be compared. The number of cancer cases in the years 2008 and 2009 is almost the same but because the maximum amount of cancer in the period was recorded in 2008, the number of cancer cases in 2004 is compared with 2008. The comparison shows that all types of cancer have substantially been increased in 2008 since 2004. The greatest increase in the number of cancer cases per 100 thousand people (ASR) among women is related to breast cancer which has increased to the extent of 24 cases per 100 thousand people. After that, skin cancer has increased to the extent of 8 cases per 100 thousand people and then lung cancer and colon cancer have increased to the extent of 5 cases per 100 thousand people. Another way to compare the number of cancer cases in the years 2004 and 2008 is to compare them relatively.
The lowest percentage of increase in cancer cases (ASR) belongs to lymphatic cancer which is 31% while the highest percentage of increase belongs to salivary gland cancer which is 850%. Breast cancer is one of the most common types of cancer in women and involves about 25% of all female cancer cases in Al-Ahwaz region. This cancer has increased from 215 cases in 2004 to 643 in 2008.
Type of Cancer
% of Increase (2004-2008)
‘the rest of the uterus’
In other cancer cases, lymph nodes, cervix, gall bladder, thyroid, ovarian, stomach, hematopoietic system, lips and mouth, oesophagus, and pharynx have increased by 31% to 77%.
Studies show that in 2008, breast cancer was the most common type of cancer among women. Other common types of cancer among women in Al-Ahwaz region are Skin cancer (10%), colon cancer and hematopoietic cancer (6%) and stomach cancer and lung cancer (5%).
Cancer amongst Ahwazi men
The number of all cancer cases in 2008, per 100 thousand, has increased in comparison with the number in 2004 except for testicular and thyroid cancer. The greatest increase in the number of cancer cases in men relates to lungs, stomach, and prostate cancer; each has increased to the extent of 7 cases per 100 thousand people.After that, cancer of the colon, liver, hematopoietic system, skin, bladder and neurology show an increase of 5 cases per 100 thousand people.
The relative comparison of growth rates in cancer cases per 100 thousand people indicates that the lowest percentage of increase in cancer cases relates to lip and mouth cancer (4%) while the highest percentage of increase relates to liver cancer (719%).
Type of Cancer
% of Increase (2004 – 2008)
Lip and mouth
Other types of cancer, including cancer of the oesophagus, stomach, intestine, gall bladder, prostate, and kidney have increased by 90% to 123%. Cancers of the lymph nodes, larynx, skin, throat, hematopoietic system have increased by 30% to 70%. There are only two types of cancer which have been reduced, thyroid and testicular, reduced by 18% and 7% respectively. By the way, these two types of cancer are rare and include just less than 1.5% of cancer cases. Studies in 2008 reveal that skin cancer at 11% is the most common type of cancer among Ahwazi men. After skin, cancers regarding stomach, lung and prostate cancer at 8% and cancers regarding bladder and colon at around 7% are, comparatively, other common types of cancer among men in Al-Ahwaz region.
Conclusion of Findings
Examining the official statistics for the period 2004 - 2009 illustrates that the rate of all types of cancer in men and women has increased. At the same time, 12 types of cancer in women and 10 in men have increased by more than 100%. The government officials have already reported the detection of 52 types of cancer in Al-Ahwaz region. Head of Medical Documentation of Social Security in Ahwaz said that just since the beginning of 2015, 2280 patients with various cancer cases have been documented.
Conditions in the Ahwazi Region
The environmental pollution caused by Iran's expanding industrialization in Ahwaz is claiming the lives of thousands of Arab people. The Ahwazi people are already marginalized, deprived, disadvantaged and struggling with extreme poverty that has been imposed by the Iranian regime on what was previously one of the wealthiest nations in natural resources. They now find themselves treated like slaves on their own land.
The increase in recent years in the growth of cancer in the Al-Ahwaz is directly attributable to environmental problems and pollution such as, for example, the poor quality of drinking water. There has been a marked increase in the occurrence of dust storms and environmental pollution caused by diverting the flow of rivers, the discharge of hospital and municipal waste into rivers, and the drainage of the rivers due to the excessive building of dams, and the drying of wetlands for oil exploration.
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