Lower Cancer Rates Among Druze Compared to Arab and Jewish Populations in Israel, 1999–2009

Iris Atzmon, Shai Linn, Boris A. Portnov, Elihu Richter, Lital Keinan-Boker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The Druze are a small ethnic minority in Israel amounting to about 130,000 residents (or 1.7 % of the total population of the country). Unlike other population groups, the Druze strive to keep their own traditions and marry mainly inside their own community. During the last decade, cancer morbidity among both Jews and Arabs in Israel has been increasing, while data on the Druze are little known and have not been analyzed and compared to other population groups to date. To compare cancer morbidity rates among Druze, Arabs and Jews in Israel during 1999–2009, gender-specific and age-standardized incidence rates of all site cancers and specific cancers of three population groups (Jews, Arabs and Druze) were received from the Israel National Cancer Registry for the period 1999–2009. Based on these rates, periodical incidence rates were calculated and mutually compared across the groups stratified by gender. As the analysis shows, the Druze had significantly lower cancer rates compared to both Arabs and Jews. Thus, for all site cancers, there were significantly higher cancer rates in Jewish males versus Druze males (RR = 1.39, 95 % CI = 1.16–1.65) and in Jewish females versus Druze females (RR = 1.53, 95 % CI = 1.27–1.85), but not statistically significant for Arab males versus Druze males (RR = 1.12 95 % CI = 0.93–1.35). Lung cancer rates in Arab males were also higher compared to Druze males (RR = 1.84, 95 % CI = 1.13–3.00). Jewish males had statistically significant higher rates of prostate cancer compared to Druze males (RR = 2.47, 95 % CI = 1.55–3.91). For thyroid and colon cancers, risks were not significantly different at the 95 % CI level; however, the risks were significantly different at the 90 % CI level (RR = 3.62, 90 % CI 1.20–11.02 and RR = 1.69, 90 % CI = 1.03–2.77, respectively). Jewish females had significantly higher rates of invasive breast cancer (RR = 2.25, 95 % CI = 1.55–3.25), in situ cervical cancer (RR = 4.01, 95 % CI = 1.27–12.66) and lung cancer (RR = 3.22, 95 % CI = 1.12–9.24) compared to Druze females. We thus observed lower cancer rates among Druze versus Arab and Jewish populations in Israel. A reason for these differences may be due to different nutritional habits. Druze still keep a less processed nutritional lifestyle, than is common in industrial society. There may also be other reasons that have not been identified yet.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)741-754
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Religion and Health
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1 Jun 2017

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2014, Springer Science+Business Media New York.


  • Cancer
  • Consanguinity
  • Druze
  • Incidence rates
  • Israel
  • Smoking

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Religious studies
  • General Nursing


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