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Last Updated: Monday, 28 July, 2003, 23:16 GMT 00:16 UK
Europe 'winning cancer battle'

There were fewer deaths from cancer across Europe in 2000 than experts had predicted, it has been revealed.

Around 92,500 fewer people died of the disease than had been calculated by scientists in the mid-1980s.

Experts had said deaths would rise to over 1.03 million.

But they now say the figure is likely to be closer to 940,500.

Tobacco control must continue to be a number one priority
Professor Peter Boyle, European Institute of Oncology
In an attempt to reduce the number of deaths from the disease, the Europe Against Cancer Programme set a target in 1985 for each country in the European Union to cut cancer deaths by 15% by the year 2000.

Only Finland and Austria have achieved the target for both men and women, although other countries - including the UK - did meet the target for men.

Lung cancer

Overall in the EU, there was a 10% reduction in the number of deaths expected among men and an 8% reduction among women.

Luxembourg and Finland saw the biggest reduction compared to expected deaths in men, down by 24% and 17% respectively.

But in Portugal and Greece, there were more cancer deaths than predicted among both men and women.

The figures show there were fewer deaths from stomach, colorectal and breast cancers than expected.

But, although there were fewer deaths from lung cancer among men than had been feared, the rates in women increased in all countries.

The increased ranged from 8% in the UK to 84% in the Netherlands.

The risk of dying from prostate cancer was increased in all EU countries except France, Italy, Luxembourg and Germany.

The researchers compiled information on deaths from cancer from EU countries, and examines the trends in common cancers such as lung, stomach, colorectal, breast and prostate.


Professor Peter Boyle, Director of the Division of Epidemiology and Biostatistics at the European Institute of Oncology in Milan, Italy, who led the research, said: "With few exceptions most countries are experiencing declining trends in cancer death rates, which seem set to continue, at least in the near future."

He said smoking had a major impact on cancer rates.

"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."

But he added: "The risk of dying from lung cancer in women increased substantially in every country, although it appears to be stabilising in the UK.

"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 added: "What this research tells us is that tobacco control must continue to be a number one priority, and women, alongside deprived populations of both sexes, must be a priority target."

Cancer control

A spokesman for Cancer Research UK: "It is very encouraging to see an overall drop in cancer deaths across Europe.

"On the downside, the blanket rise in female deaths from lung cancer is a tragic warning to those countries whose young women are smoking in ever-increasing numbers, particularly Greece, Portugal, France, Spain and most Eastern European countries.

"Tobacco control needs to be kept high on the agenda as part of any effective cancer control programme."

The statistics are published in the Annals of Oncology.

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