EU cancer death rate expected to fall again

In collaboration with the Press Association

Researchers predict that the proportion of the European Union (EU) population that dies from cancer will continue to drop in 2012.

The falling rates of cancer death are due to a decline in men smoking, and to progress in cancer prevention, early detection and treatment, according to the authors of the report, published in the journal Annals of Oncology.

The new figures were described as "encouraging" by Cancer Research UK, but also highlight a trend of rising lung cancer death rates in women.

Overall, cancer death rates for 2012 will be 139 per 100,000 for men and 85 per 100,000 for women. This is a 10 per cent fall for men and a seven per cent fall for women, compared with rates from five years ago

But the total number of people dying of cancer is set to increase, as the EU population ages.

The report forecasts that around 1.28 million people will die from cancer this year - 717,398 men and 565,703 women. In 2007 this figure was around 1.26 million.

All cancers were included in the overall tally. The researchers also looked individually at cancers of the stomach, intestine, pancreas, lung, prostate, breast, and uterus (including cervix), and leukaemias.

The report predicted substantial reductions in breast cancer death rates, not just in middle-aged and older women, but also in younger women.

Overall breast cancer death rates are tipped to fall by nine per cent to 14.9 per 100,000 women, while deaths among women aged 20 to 49 will fall by 13 per cent to 6.3 per 100,000 women.

Study leader Professor Carlo La Vecchia, from the University of Milan, said: "The fact that there will be substantial falls in deaths from breast cancer, not only in middle age, but also in the young, indicates that important advancements in treatment and management are playing a major role in the decline in death rates."

A total of 88,000 women in the EU are expected to die of breast cancer in 2012, making it the leading cause of death overall in women.

But they predict lung cancer will be the biggest cause of death among women in the UK and Poland, with rates of 21.4 and 16.9 per 100,000 women respectively.

And lung cancer will continue to be the biggest cause of death among men in the EU with a rate of 37.2 per 100,000. But this is a 10 per cent fall on the 41.3 figure from 2007.

Catherine Thomson, head of statistical information at Cancer Research UK, said the study is in line with previous research "which shows that generally death rates from cancer in the UK are predicted to fall".

She added: "This is true for breast and bowel cancers and lung cancer in men - reassuring news that highlights the impact of men stopping smoking, the introduction of new therapies and diagnostics, and how the NHS has improved treatment delivery.

But she said that climbing lung cancer death rates in women were worrying.

"Smoking prevention is the key to reducing lung cancer rates as over eight out of 10 lung cancer cases are caused by smoking. Most smokers start under the age of 18, so efforts to dissuade both boys and girls from starting to smoke in the first place must be continued," she continued.

"One important step is to remove the displays of cigarettes in shops - which is being rolled out in large stores and supermarkets in April. Tobacco companies have used the cigarette pack to appeal to new smokers over recent years. Cancer Research UK is also urging the government to remove all branding from tobacco packets and sell this deadly product in plain, standardised packets with large health warnings front and back."

Copyright Press Association 2012