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Project to study breast and prostate cancer disparities among people of African descent launched

Project to study breast and prostate cancer disparities among people of African descent launched

The Ministry of Health and Social Services (MoHSS) on Monday launched the Breast and Prostate Cancer Research Project in close partnership with numerous institutions from around the world to aid in understanding why people of African descent are at higher risk of developing breast and prostate cancers, including what alternatives to implement to reduce these disparities.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), breast and prostate cancers are two of the most common cancers worldwide and the second leading cause of cancer deaths in women and men, respectively.

The ministry’s new project is mainly intended to understand why these disparities exist and identify factors contributing to the differences in health outcomes.

This research project will be carried out by team members from different countries and institutions, including academia, industry, and private sector from Benin, Burkina Faso, Kenya, five Caribbean islands, and the United States of America.

Breast cancer is the most common cancer among women, accounting for nearly 20% of all cancers in females, while prostate cancer is the most common cancer among men, with an incidence rate of 24.4% per 100 000 population, according to the Namibian Cancer Registry.

The Minister of Health, and Social Services, Dr. Kalumbi Shangula, said at the launch of the new research project event this week that, in Namibia, breast cancer accounts for approximately 12% of all cancer deaths in women. He added that risk factors for breast cancer include age, family history, genetics, and lifestyle factors, such as excessive alcohol consumption and obesity.

According to him, breast cancer begins when abnormal cells grow uncontrollably in the breast tissue. “Breast cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths among women worldwide, with an estimated 685 000 deaths in 2020 alone. The good news is that it can be detected early through regular mammography screenings. Early detection is critical because it increases the chances of successful treatment and survival,” Shangula said, adding that the disease is often detected too late when it has already spread to other parts of the body.

Moreover, he said the symptoms might include a lump or thickening in the breast, nipple discharge, or changes in the shape or texture of the breast, indicating that Namibia can screen and detect breast cancer at an early stage to initiate early treatment.

The minister hailed their collaboration with the academic and research institutions, namely, the Chase Cancer Center, Philadelphia; the Comprehensive Cancer Center, Miami; the Kenya Medical Research Institute and AC3 Partners. “We are pleased that one of the major pharmaceutical companies in the world, Pfizer, is part of this project.”

Ben Nangombe, Executive Director of MoHSS, said the ministry is demonstrating its solidarity by expressing a resolve to make a difference in the fight against these cancers through quality research to close the gaps in research data, whose outcomes will undoubtedly posit solutions, which will give the world answers, for capable, sustainable, lasting interventions.

Nangombe highlighted that the teams from countries participating in this project worked tirelessly to set up Standard Operating Procedures for the project.

“They delivered and gave training sessions. They prepared local sites for the recruitment of patients. They prepared the Research Protocol for approval. Some countries have already started with patient recruitment. Namibia will soon join these countries. In a nutshell, the work has started. The work is underway,” the Executive Director affirmed at the official launch at the Hilton hotel in Windhoek.

Furthermore, Shangula pointed out that the ministry looks forward to the outcomes and recommendations of this specific project. He added that they hope its results will lead to the development of more effective interventions to combat and manage cancers.

The Namibian research teams are under the leadership of Dr Nashidengo, the Principal Investigator, Co-investigators Dr Abrebresse and Dr Uamburu, the Local Site Co-ordinator, and the NIP Project Focal Persons, led by Dr Konstantinus and Dr Kidaga.


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