Pancreatic cancer bucks downward trend in EU cancer death rates

In collaboration with the Press Association
Pancreatic cancer cells

Death rates from pancreatic cancer and lung cancer in women are predicted to rise while death rates from all others will continue to fall, according to new European statistics.

"This is a timely reminder that more research is needed to improve treatments for cancers where survival remains poor” - Nick Ormiston-Smith, Cancer Research UK

The study, carried out by Italian and Swiss researchers, looked at overall cancer rates across each of the 27 member states that make up the European Union (EU), also focussing on a number of specific cancer types in the six largest countries – France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Spain and the UK.

Their findings predict that the rate of deaths from all types of cancer combined will fall across Europe in 2014.

However, bucking the trend were two types of cancer: pancreatic cancer, where increased death rates are predicted for both men and women; and lung cancer, where an increase is predicted in women as the effects of changing smoking patterns impact on death rates.

“Women who started smoking in the 1960s and 1970s are now starting to develop lung cancer. Lung cancer will become the first cause of death in European women in the next few years, overtaking breast cancer,” said Professor Carlo La Vecchia, lead author on the study from the Faculty of Medicine, University of Milan.

The analysis was a ‘timely reminder’ of the need for more research into harder-to-treat cancers, said a Cancer Research UK spokesperson.

Nick Ormiston-Smith, the charity’s head of statistics, said: "This research further confirms the good news that deaths from cancer are continuing to fall in the UK and other European countries.

"We have previously shown that UK death rates have dropped by more than a fifth in the last 20 years. But this is a timely reminder that more research is needed to improve treatments for cancers where survival remains poor.”

Publishing their findings in the journal Annals of Oncology, the researchers predict that across the EU, 742,500 men and 581,100 women will die from cancer in 2014 – with pancreatic cancer predicted to account for 82,300 deaths.

"This year we predict that 41,300 men and 41,000 women will die from pancreatic cancer - an age standardised rate of 8.1 and 5.6 deaths respectively per 100,000 of the population. This represents a small but steady increase since the beginning of this century," Professor La Vecchia said.

The latest predications reveal that although absolute numbers of cancer deaths had increased over the last five years, the proportion of the population dying had dropped by seven per cent for men and five per cent for women.

But as the number of people who survive pancreatic cancer for five years or more currently stands at less than five per cent, Professor La Vecchia said the team’s predictions were “cause for concern.”

“Tobacco, obesity, diabetes, high alcohol intake and a family history of pancreatic cancer are all recognised risk factors for the disease,” he added.

Speaking of the challenge of tackling these trends, Cancer Research UK’s Nick Ormiston-Smith, added: "Innovative new research is beginning in these areas - last week Cancer Research UK, as part of our stratified medicine programme, launched a pioneering lung cancer trial that marks a new era of research into personalised medicines.

"And as smoking remains the single biggest preventable cause of cancer death, helping more people to quit as well as reducing the number of children who take up smoking through reforms such as standardised plain cigarette packaging will help this downward trend in cancer deaths to continue."

Copyright Press Association 2014 


  • Malvezzi M, et al. (2014) European cancer mortality predictions for the year 2014, Annals of Oncology, DOI: