Brussels, 29 Jul 2003
A recent study claims that deaths resulting from cancer are falling in the European Union.
The study, published in the annals of oncology journal, is based on the results of the five-year 'Europe against cancer programme', an action plan which seeks to reduce the incidence of, and mortality from cancer by means of improving training for health professionals, informing and educating the general public, and pooling European resources in collaborative projects, in order to achieve a European cancer research effort without national frontiers.
Contrary to initial estimations, which forecasted a rise in cancer deaths, from 850,000 in 1985 to over 1.03 million in 2000, the study claims that over 92,500 fewer deaths than predicted occurred in the EU in 2000.
While the EU's cancer programme did not reach its target of reducing cancer-related deaths by 15 per cent by 2000, lead researcher for the programme, Peter Boyle, believes that the results of the programme are still optimistic. 'Although we fell short of our ambitious target, the reductions are noteworthy and about half of the expected increase in cancer deaths was avoided,' said Professor Boyle. 'With few exceptions most countries are experiencing declining trends in cancer death rates, which seem set to continue, at least in the near future.'
Indeed, the study shows that the overall number of cancer related deaths has fallen in the EU by ten per cent among men, and eight per cent among women. Some countries, such as Finland and Austria, have successfully managed to reduce cancer deaths by 15 per cent for both men and women, while other countries, for example UK and Luxembourg, have reached this target for men alone.
However, in the cases of Portugal and Greece, there was a higher than expected increase in the number of deaths among both men and women. According to Professor Boyle, there is still some cause for concern, as over the five year period of the programme, the number of deaths from cancer still rose by 12 per cent among men, and nine per cent among women.
He also drew attention to the continuing trend of smoking and its impact on the health of men and women in Europe, noting that the risk of dying from lung cancer in women increased substantially over the period in each country. 'The failure of tobacco control in women is a great disappointment. The fact that women are increasingly smoking, and smoking more, represents a great failure of public health in the recent past and is a major challenge for the near future. If women in each country had experienced the same decline in lung cancer as men, then the target may have been achieved in women and also overall,' he said.
Professor Boyle added that tobacco control activities could help reduce the risk of cancer. 'Successful tobacco control activities have made a major contribution to the declines in cancer death rates in men and the UK is a good example of this, he said. '[T]obacco control must continue to be a number one priority, and women, alongside deprived populations of both sexes, must be a priority target,' added the Professor.
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