Estimates show overall fall in cancer death rates in Europe

In collaboration with Adfero

Death rates from cancer will fall across Europe this year, Swiss and Italian scientists have predicted.

The researchers estimate that 1,281,466 people in the EU will die from the disease in 2011, up from 1,256,001 in 2007.

However, when the figures are converted into rates per 100,000 people, they suggest an overall fall in cancer death rates of seven per cent in men and six per cent in women since 2007.

The estimates were compiled by scientists at the University of Milan in Italy and the University of Lausanne in Switzerland, and are published in the Annals of Oncology.

They used a mathematical model for predicting cancer mortality, and used the cancer death trends in the EU between 1970 and 2007 to predict death rates for 2011.

While overall cancer death rates appear to be moving in the right direction, the researchers highlighted areas of concern.

In particular, the number of women dying from lung cancer is increasing steadily across Europe.

And although the study found that the UK appeared to be bucking this trend, with female lung cancer mortality rates levelling off, Cancer Research UK said its own analysis suggests that lung cancer rates in women might even be creeping up.

Professor Carlo La Vecchia, from the University of Milan, said that lung, bowel and breast cancers - the top causes of cancer deaths - are showing "major changes".

He revealed: "Despite these favourable trends in cancer death rates in Europe the number of cancer deaths remains approximately stable, due to the ageing of the population.

"Further, there is a persisting gap in cancer mortality between central and eastern European countries compared to western Europe, and this is likely to persist for the foreseeable future."

Catherine Thomson, head of statistical information at Cancer Research UK, said: "This latest study from the EU shows that generally death rates from cancer in the UK are predicted to continue to fall. This is true for breast and bowel cancers and lung cancer in men, which is reassuring. But the lung cancer death rates in women may be stable or even still increasing.

"Smoking prevention is the key to reducing lung cancer rates as 90 per cent of lung cancers are caused by smoking and most smokers start under the age of 18. Efforts to dissuade both boys and girls from starting to smoke in the first place must be continued. One important step is to remove the displays of cigarettes in shops and we urge the government to implement the legislation already passed by parliament as soon as possible."

References

Malvezzi, M., Arfe, A., Bertuccio, P., Levi, F., La Vecchia, C., & Negri, E. (2011). European cancer mortality predictions for the year 2011 Annals of Oncology DOI: 10.1093/annonc/mdq774

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