Brussels, 05 Feb 2004
Mortality rates from gastric cancer in the EU have been halved between 1980 and 1999 according to a pan-European survey published on 3 February. Figures for Central Eastern Europe and the Russian Federation are slightly lower with decreases of 45 and 40 per cent respectively.
The survey, conducted by a pan-European group of researchers, observed steady declines in gastric cancer mortality in both the middle-aged and younger age groups, suggesting that they are likely to persist in the near future.
The study considered trends in age-standardised mortality from gastric cancer in 25 European countries over the period 1950 to 1999. Steady and persistent decreases in rates were observed in all countries. Between 1980 and 1999, a decrease from 18.6 percent per 100,000 inhabitants to 9.8 percent was reported in the EU. For the same period, rates in Eastern Europe went down from .9 to 16 percent and from 51.6 to 32 percent in the Russian Federation.
According to researcher Fabio Levi from the University of Lausanne, 'the results are real and important, even if the reasons for this decrease are not yet clear'. Carlo La Vecchia from the University of Milan, believes that the decrease is almost certainly due to a more varied and healthy diet, which, coupled with better conservation of food, better sanitation and antibiotics is helping to eliminate Helicobacter pylori, a bacteria associated with gastric cancer. Factors such as the reduction in the rates of tobacco smoking, at least for men, and the advances in diagnosis and therapy can also have had an influence on reduced mortality.
However, the survey also observed considerable differences in mortality rates depending on the region. In the Russian Federation, for example, mortality rates are five times higher than in Scandinavia and France, and in general, gastric cancer is more frequent in Central Eastern Europe, Portugal, Italy and Spain.
Professor Coleman , Professor of Epidemology and Vital Statistics at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine sounded a warning note for the future of the East-West divide: 'The survival trends reflect a substantial and increasing gap in the overall prognosis of cancer between eastern and western Europe. Since all eastern European countries studied are about to join the EU, this raises a major new problem of inequality in health within the EU.' To read the abstract of the survey: Monitoring falls in gastric cancer mortality in Europe, please visit: http://annonc.oupjournals.org/cgi/conten t/abstract/15/2/338