More Europeans are beating cancer, perhaps due to more widespread screening and earlier diagnosis, according to Eurocare 4. But men lag well behind women.
The Italian-based study examined data on 13 million cancer diagnoses from 23 European countries comparing two periods - 1988 to 1990 and 1997 to 1999. The most successful country for male cures was Iceland (47% of men cured) while the most successful for women were France and Finland (59%). Poland was the least successful for both men (21%) and women (38%).
‘The good news is that for most cancers, survival has increased during the 1980s and 1990s,’ said Alexander Eggermont, president of the European Cancer Organization, who did not take part in the long-running Eurocare study.
- Cures from lung cancer rose from 6 to 8%
- Cures from stomach cancer rose from 15 to 18%
- Cures from colorectal cancer rose from 42 to 49%
But an overall improvement masks enormous differences between countries and between genders within countries. In France, for example, although 59% of women survived (the best figure in Europe), only 33% of men did (one of the worst figures in western Europe).
‘Without this information, it would be impossible to assess whether improvements in cancer diagnosis, treatment and care are actually having an effect on the outcome for patients,’ Eggermont said. ‘The data also tells us what cancers and which areas of Europe need to be targeted for further research and investment.’
Not a league table
But Dr Lesley Walker, director of cancer information at Cancer Research UK, said that the statistics 'should not be seen as a league table of cancer survival in Europe.
'We can't directly compare cancer survival in the UK with some European countries because statistics aren't collected to the same standards in all places. Some countries don't cover their whole population, which can inflate their survival rates.'
Cancer success is usually measured in terms survival rates after 5 or 10 years. Cure is defined as 'having a life expectancy no longer any different to that of the general population'.
- The table, compiled by the BBC, shows male survival rates.