UK cancer survival rates lag best in Europe: Study

26 September 2015

An analysis of data from cancer patients across Europe revealed that between 1995 up to 2007, cancer survival figures had improved across the continent.

However there were regional differences suggesting, survival in the UK and Ireland lagged behind the best performing areas over that period.

"Survival is improving in the UK, but not fast enough," said Nick Ormiston-Smith of Cancer Research UK.

The study, EUROCARE 5, covered over half of the European population, and was published as a series of reports in the European Journal of Cancer.

The researchers were able to adjust their findings to factor in differences in population ages, and in rates of different cancers diagnosed in across the regions.

The study leader Dr Milena Sant, from the Istituto Nazionale dei Tumori in Milan, said changes in survival appeared to be related to regions' gross domestic product (GDP) and total national expenditure on health (TNEH).

"Countries with recent higher increases in GDP and TNEH had a higher increase in cancer survival. However, this was not the case for countries such as Denmark and the UK, which continue to perform worse than expected for their level of health expenditure''.

The research comparing 29 countries across Europe showed survival rates in Sweden were almost one third higher than in the UK.

The study of over 20 million cancer patients found survival in the UK was worse than every country in western Europe.

The study showed that only eastern Europe and the Balkans had fared worst.

According to the report, presented to the European Cancer Congress in Vienna, despite investment in attempts to diagnose cases earlier, and speed up access to treatment, the gap between the UK and other developed nations had not narrowed.

The data, the latest Europe-wide statistics available, covered those diagnosed up to 2007, and showed five year survival in UK at 50.1 per cent, as against 64.7 per cent in Sweden.

Countries such as France, Italy, and Germany all did much better than the UK, which was on a par with the Czech Republic.

According to experts, much of the difference reflected the fact other countries offered tests far more quickly.

Europe's cancer survival rate: By region
Survival rate
Northern Europe
Central Europe
Southern Europe
Ireland and UK
Eastern Europe

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