Closing the gaps in cancer rates

Wide variations in death rates has prompted the EU to step up joint efforts to prevent, treat, research and share information on cancer.

Every year 3.2 million Europeans are diagnosed with cancer. Breast, lung or colorectal cancer account for most of these cases.

A closer look at cancer rates in the 27-nation EU reveals big differences between countries, both in terms of frequency of cases and their outcome.

Many factors affect the numbers, including the way they are gathered and reported. But the persistence of wide variations suggests unevenness in the quality of healthcare across the EU.

The disparities – along with high cancer rates in Europe as a whole – are among the concerns driving a new EU effort to foster more cooperation in the fight against cancer.

The European partnership for action against cancer, launched by the European commission on September 29, will bring together researchers, doctors, government officials and patient-group representatives in four working groups. Each group will have a different focus: cancer prevention, treatment, research and collecting information.

Over the next five years, the groups will explore ways to reduce cancer rates – for example, by expanding screening for breast, cervical and colorectal cancer and developing a coordinated approach to cancer research. They will also work to ensure accurate and comparable data.

The EU has set itself the goal of a 15 per cent reduction in new cases over the next decade. That would mean 510,000 fewer new cases.