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Britain behind the best on curing cancer

The MHF has reacted to news that just one third of British men are cured of cancer according to new European data.

BBC cure tableFigures from Eurocare 4, a cancer epidemiology research project on survival of European cancer patients from 1988 to 2002 suggest that although more people are surviving cancer in Europe, the UK is lagging behind the best - the table from the BBC on the left shows male survival rates.

MHF CEO Peter Baker said: 'What is just as shocking as England's relatively poor cancer survival rates compared to much of Europe is the huge difference between men and women. Just one third of men with cancer are cured compared to half of women.

'We need to do better for both sexes but men urgently need particular attention in terms of education, early diagnosis and treatment. Men are not genetically programmed to die young - the answer lies in developing services that more effectively meet their needs.'

Good news for some

Professor Alexander Eggermont, president of the European Cancer Organisation (ECCO), said: 'The good news is that, for most cancers, survival has increased during the 1980s and 1990s. There were big differences between countries; however, most of the largest increases in survival have occurred in countries where survival was low at first, and this has contributed to a reduction in the disparities in survival across Europe.'

The figures suggest that England's cancer cure rate between 1988 and 1999 was 34.5% for men and 49.8% for women - behind the best in Europe. 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.

Different statistical standards

'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.'

'And it's important to remember that these figures cover people diagnosed before the Cancer Plan was introduced in 2000, so some improvements will have happened since then.'

Dr Walker noted that there are variations in the early diagnosis and treatment of cancer patients between the UK and other countries in Europe, but that we still do not know the extent of these differences and the reason for their existence. 'We need to look closely at which areas we're lagging behind in and work out why.'

Eurocare is based in Italy. Eurocare 4 includes data on more than 13 millions of cancer diagnoses provided by 93 population based cancer registries in 23 European countries including the UK.

These 'cure' figures are a different way of looking at the data. 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'.

Page created on March 25th, 2009

Page updated on December 1st, 2009