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Last Updated: Thursday, 18 December, 2003, 00:00 GMT
UK 'behind best' on child cancer
Cure rates for childhood cancers are improving
Childhood cancer survival rates in some other European countries outstrip those in the UK, say new figures.

The EUROCARE study reveals that just over seven out of 10 UK children with cancer are alive five years later.

This compares with eight out of 10 in Sweden, Switzerland and Finland, and 90% in Iceland.

A spokesman for Cancer Research UK said that while UK performance on some cancers was excellent, poor results in brain cancers were "worrying".

The results were produced by a major effort between cancer registries in 24 European countries, and reveal major differences between the "best" and "worst".

In Estonia, for example, only 45% of those with childhood cancers survive to the five-year mark.

Germany, Switzerland and the Nordic countries tended to fare the best.

Cure rates for many childhood cancers have soared in recent years with the introduction of modern chemotherapy drugs and radiotherapy treatments.

The report focused on the outcome of cases diagnosed between 1990 and 1994.

In England and Wales, there were 5385 cases of cancer in the under-15s, while there were 636 in Scotland.

The five-year-survival rate was 71.1% and 71% respectively.

It's worrying that our survival rate from brain cancer should seem relatively low and it will be important to work out why this is
Professor Robert Souhami, Cancer Research UK
Professor Robert Souhami, Cancer Research UK's Director of Clinical and External Affairs, said: "As these figures demonstrate, survival from children's cancer is now excellent throughout Western Europe, having improved dramatically over the last few decades.

"It's encouraging that Britain is holding its own within Europe, with survival rates around the same as France, Spain, Italy and the Netherlands.

"Of course, it's vital we keep working to improve treatments for our children and we can learn from Germany and Scandinavia, where survival was generally slightly higher."

"Britain's survival rates for some of the more common children's cancers, such as leukaemias and lymphomas, are among the best in Europe and indeed the world, but there are a number of solid tumours where our survival rates appear to be comparatively low."

He said: "It's worrying that our survival rate from brain cancer should seem relatively low and it will be important to work out why this is. If there are any problems with the way we are treating brain tumours, we need to address them as rapidly as possible."

Dr Gemma Gatta, of the National Tumour Institute in Milan, Italy: "The gold standard is the survival levels of the Nordic countries.

"Other nations with similar resources and health systems can do the same."

European childhood cancer survival rates
Country No. of cases 5-year-survival (%)
Iceland 39 90.1
Finland 799 81.2
Switzerland 43 81.0
Sweden 1215 79.4
Germany 7473 76.4
France 1419 72.8
UK 6481 71.1
Spain 1185 70.8
Czech Republic 119 65.3
Slovakia 711 63.1
Estonia 199 44.9
Source: EUROCARE study

UK 'has worst cancer record'
02 Jul 02  |  Health

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