Today, ahead of World Cancer Day on 4 February, the Commission and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) present the first Country Cancer Profiles under the European Cancer Inequalities Registry for all EU Member States, Norway and Iceland.
The Profiles show that EU countries spent a substantial amount, nearly €170 billion, on cancer care (in 2018). Another important finding is that lung cancer remains by far the most common cause of death from cancer. There are also large inequalities in cancer mortality rates between and within EU countries. This can be partly explained by varying exposure to risk factors for cancer, but also by the different capacity of health systems to provide timely and free access to early diagnosis, high quality of cancer care and treatment. The Profiles show that identifying challenges and sharing best practices between Member States can help countries address cancer inequalities.
Further findings of the Country Cancer Profiles
The profiles highlight other important facts:
- Representing 26% of all deaths, cancer is the second cause of mortality in the EU after circulatory diseases .
- There is almost a two-fold difference in cancer mortality across countries , and there are wide disparities in cancer mortality across gender.
- There are broad socio-economic inequalities in cancer mortality . Such disparities are partly explained by differences in exposure to risk factors such as smoking, obesity, harmful alcohol consumption or air pollution. Overall risk factors tend to be more prevalent among men and among low-income and low-education groups.
- The challenges EU countries face in providing high quality cancer care differ. Some countries are well equipped, but face shortages in qualified health care staff, while others have a high number of qualified physicians, but lack, for example, radiation therapy equipment.
- Spending on prevention increased over the past years . However, it still only accounts for 3,4% of overall health spending.
Actions to fight inequalities at EU level
In record time, the Commission has already delivered many actions of the Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan. Most recently, on 23 January, the Commission launched the European Cancer Imaging Initiative to support healthcare providers, research institutes and innovators in making the best use of innovative data-driven solutions for cancer treatment and care.
The new Council Recommendation on cancer screening adopted in December 2022 is also a key element of a new EU-funded Cancer Screening Scheme, which seeks to offer breast, cervical and colorectal cancer screening to 90% of eligible Europeans and has been extended to cover lung, prostate, and in certain conditions, gastric cancer.
Work will continue to deliver more than 30 actions over the coming year . Among the main initiatives, the Commission will present a proposal for a Council recommendation on vaccine-preventable cancers, along with an update of the 2009 Council recommendation on smoke-free environments to increase the protection of citizens against tobacco and help deliver on the target of a Tobacco-Free Generation by 2024.
For the first release on 1 February 2023, in total 29 Cancer country profiles (EU27, Iceland and Norway) have been produced with the help of OECD. The Profiles serve as a tool to identify inequalities in cancer prevention and care. They shed light on key achievements, challenges and disparities within each country and compare the findings for individual countries to the situation in the EU as a whole. This can support policy makers and help guide investment and interventions at regional, national and EU level under Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan.
Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan is a key pillar of the European Health Union announced by President von der Leyen in 2020. Launched in 2021, the Cancer Plan sets out a new EU approach to cancer prevention, treatment, and care through an integrated, health-in-all-policies, and multi-stakeholder approach. It proposes 10 flagships and multiple actions to tackle the entire disease pathway.