SMJ Current Issue

The pattern and distribution of malignant neoplasms among Yemeni patients
  Abdullae K Al-Thobhani,  Yahia A Raja`ae,  Tariq A Noman

Objectives: This research was aimed at describing the pattern of malignancies among 1,491 patients during 1996 through to 2000 and to explore association with age, sex and site of cancers.
Methods: A research was carried out at a Histopathology Center in Sana’a, Republic of Yemen between the period August 1996 through to August 2000. All specimens were diagnosed by one pathologist based on the International Classification of Disease for Oncology.
Results: Results revealed comparable male: female ratio (1:0.92) and mean age of 46.1 +/- 22.8 in males and 44.2 +/-18.3. The most common cancers were the gastrointestinal tract malignancies, 22%. Lymph node cancers constituted 16%, followed by head and neck malignant tumors 12%, skin 10%, urinary tract 8%, bone and soft tissue 8%, breast 8%, female genital system 5%, thyroid gland 2% and finally male genital system, bone marrow and central nervous system/eye 2% each. For female patients breast cancers and gastointestinal tract cancers were equally the most frequent malignancies. Skin cancers, followed by gastrointestinal tract and male genital system affected mostly older age patients. While bone marrow followed by central nervous system and eye, then bone and soft tissue cancers were mostly diagnosed in young age patients. Within the gastrointestinal tract liver was the most affected site 33% and adenocarcinomas were the most frequent diagnosed type 42%. Among lymph nodes malignancies non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma constituted 42%. Oral cavity cancers constituted 73% of head and neck malignancies, where squamous cell carcinoma constituted 65%.
Conclusions: Gastrointestinal tract in general with breast in females, were the most frequent sites of malignancies in the Republic of Yemen. Adenocarcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma were the most frequent types.

Saudi Medical Journal 2001; Vol.  (10): 910-913 doi:


Cancer is still one of the major health problems worldwide with increasing frequency, especially with increased modernization, increased exposure to radiation and predisposition to a large number of carcinogenic agents.1 In 1985 the World Health Organization (WHO) reported 9 million new cases of cancers and 5 million deaths worldwide annually,2 5% of the new cases had occurred in the Eastern Mediterranean Region.3 Although a national cancer register is not available in the Republic of Yemen, new cases of cancers are estimated to be around 17,000 per annum2 according to 1999 estimations There are only few, published studies of the pattern of cancers or some malignancies in some parts of the Republic of Yemen.4,5,6,7 Cancer incidence and pattern of malignancies vary widely from region to region.8 In the United States of America (USA) breast cancer ranked first in female patients 24%, followed by gastrointestinal tract malignancies (GIT), both sexes combined 18%, female genital system 11.5%, urinary tract cancers 10% and male genital system malignancies 9%.9 In a study conducted in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia GIT malignancies represented 24%, followed by Hodgkin’s disease non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma 15%, thyroid cancer 7% bone marrow 6%, skin cancers 6% and breast 5%.10 In southeastern governorates of the Republic of Yemen, GIT malignancies were the most prevalent 14%, followed by breast cancers then lymphomas 12%, female genital system 12%, head and neck 10%, bone soft tissue 9% and finally thyroid cancers 8%.4 Distribution of cancers based on sex, males accounted for 56% and females 44% in Oman.11 In a study from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia 58% were males and 42% were females.10 In Yemeni patients from the southeastern governorates the percentages were 53% female patients and 47% males patients.4 In the USA 61% were females and 39% were males.9 The purpose of this study was to describe the pattern of malignancies in the Republic of Yemen. Most cancer patients are referred to Sana’a for further investigations and therapy, where most of the histopathologists and all oncologists are practicing. Therefore, this study would serve as a baseline description of cancers in the Republic of Yemen. Furthermore, to explore association of cancers with age and sex of patients in comparison with literature.P> FONT>

Methods.FONT> FONT>One thousand four hundred and ninety one patients from different hospitals in Yemen, were referred to one Histopathology Center in Sana’a, and were diagnosed to have cancer during the period August 1996 through to August 2000. The International Classification of Diseases for Oncology (ICD-O) of the WHO was adopted by the anatomic and histopathologic classification of malignancies. Verification of some selected diagnoses was made through a control program with the Department of Pathology in the University of Graz in Austria. The results were compared with other local, regional and international studies. The site of cancer, age and sex of patients was fed into a computerized data sheet (Excel). Data were analyzed by SPSS, to find means, SD, Chi Sq test and T-test. Significance level of <= 0.05 was used. Effort was made to avoid case duplication. P> FONT>

Results.FONT> FONT>Out of 1491 cancer patients 52% were males and 48% females. The mean age of male patients was 46.1 +/- 22.8 years, while that of female patients was 44.2 +/- 18.3 years. These mean ages were found statistically comparable (P=0.08). Gastrointestinal tract malignancies (n=322) were the most common (Table 1). Lymph node, head and neck, urinary tract, skin and bone soft tissue malignant tumors, followed in male patients. While breast cancers in female patients together with GIT malignancies ranked


From the Department of Pathology (Al-Thobhani), Department of Community Medicine (Raja’a), Department of Surgery (Noman), Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Sana’a University, Republic of Yemen.

Received 17th February 2001. Accepted for publication in final form 10th June 2001.

Address correspondence and reprint request to: Dr. Abdulla K. Al-Thobhani, Head of Department of Pathology, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Sana’a University, PO Box 13849, Sana’a, Republic of Yemen. Tel/Fax. +967 (1) 249302. Email:



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