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Tuesday, 2 July, 2002, 09:39 GMT 10:39 UK
UK 'has worst cancer record'
The report blamed a lack of government funding
The UK has the worst survival rates for cancer of any developed country, a major survey reveals.

Research by market analysts Datamonitor shows Britons who develop cancer are more likely to die from the disease than people living in other Western countries.

The analysts blamed a lack of NHS funding, late diagnoses and poor public awareness for the high death rates.


The situation is likely to deteriorate before it gets any better

Kyung Lee, Datamonitor
The Department of Health said the figures were out-of-date and did not take account of recent investment in cancer care.

However, the report criticises recent decisions by the National Institute for Clinical Excellence to limit the availability of some cancer drugs on the NHS.

It warns that the situation is likely to get worse before it gets better, even though the government has pledged to spend significantly more on cancer care in the coming years.

Survival rates

The report shows that rates of survival for colorectal cancer in the UK are significantly lower than in the rest of Europe and the United States.

This is despite the fact that patients diagnosed with the disease should have the best chance of surviving compared to those with other cancers.

However, overall survival rates for patients with colorectal cancer in the UK are just 70%. This compares to 90% in the US and 80% in Germany.

Similarly, survival rates for breast cancer are 78% in the UK compared to 97% in the US and 93% in other EU countries.

Colorectal cancer survival rates
UK 70%
Germany 80%
US 90%
The authors of the report said the high death rates could be linked to the amount of money spent on cancer care.

Breast cancer survival rates
UK 78%
EU 93%
US 97%
Health providers in the US and Germany spend about three times as much on treating patients with cancer than the NHS.

The report also found that British patients have limited access to treatment facilities compared to those in other countries and have to wait longer to be diagnosed with cancer.

Only 50% of British patients are diagnosed in the early stages of colorectal cancer, compared to 63% in the US.

Just 58% of British patients with prostate cancer are diagnosed in the early stages compared to 70% in the US.

Public awareness

The authors also found a "worrying lack of awareness" among Britons about cancer.

They also called for more cancer screening programmes to be introduced in the UK, saying the NHS lags far behind the US.

Kyung Lee, oncology analyst at Datamonitor, said the findings highlighted the need for more money to be spent on treating cancer patients.

"Low spending on healthcare expenditure by the UK government has significantly contributed to poor survival for cancer patients in the UK, rendering this rate among the lowest in the developed countries.

"The lack of funding has meant that not only is there low-level spending on cancer drugs and treatment facilities, but also insufficient cancer specialists who can provide best care for these patients."

He added: "Despite government pledges to increase funding and boost cancer survival in the UK, the situation is likely to deteriorate before it gets any better."

'Out-of-date'

The Department of Health said the figures were out-of-date and did not reflect improvements since the publication the NHS Cancer Plan in 2000.

A spokeswoman said: "Datamonitor's figures predate the Cancer Plan, and the significant achievements we have made since its publication."

But Dr John Toy, of Cancer Research UK, said: "We have known for a number of years of the shameful poorer survival rates of UK cancer patients, when compared with those in other developed countries.

"The reasons for this will be complex but certainly relate to inadequate government spend on treatments and those who deliver treatments."

Liberal Democrat health spokesman Dr Evan Harris said: "The government should admit that the NHS can't afford the best treatment instead of hiding behind the rationing decisions of the National Institute for Clinical Excellence."

Meanwhile, a report by the World Health Organization has suggested that one in three cancers are preventable while another third could be treated effectively if the disease is spotted early.

The report urges countries to develop national strategies to tackle the disease.

See also:

03 Dec 01 | Health
19 Mar 02 | Scotland
15 Mar 02 | Scotland
01 Mar 02 | Health
17 May 01 | Health
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