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Last Updated: Thursday, 17 February, 2005, 02:08 GMT
Cancer killing millions in Europe
Cancer is killing millions of Europeans - and a concerted effort on preventing its most common forms is needed to stop rates rising further, experts warn.

Research published in the Annals of Oncology estimates there were more than 1.7 million cancer deaths in Europe in 2004 and another 2.9 million new cases.

One positive was a fall in the rate of stomach cancer cases in all countries.

Lung cancer remains the biggest killer - followed by bowel and breast - and doctors back more moves to cut smoking.

Biggest threats
Lung, colorectal and breast cancer account for two-fifths of the European cancer total
Lung, colorectal, stomach and breast cancers together are responsible for half of all the cancer deaths
The latest figures have been produced by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC).

They estimated that 54% of the new cases (1,534,700) and 56% of deaths (962,600) were among men.

The 25 EU countries accounted for 2 million of these new cases and 1.2 million of these deaths in Europe.

Professor Peter Boyle, IARC director, said: "It is clear that despite a fall in stomach cancer rates and some progress in screening and treatment, cancer remains an important public health problem throughout Europe.

"To make great progress quickly it is evident that we need to make a concerted attack on the big killers."


Overall, lung cancer was the commonest form of cancer diagnosed (13.2%) and of cancer death (20%). The vast majority of cases were linked to smoking.

Bowel cancer was almost equally common (13%), but accounted for a smaller proportion of deaths (11.9%).

Breast cancer was by far the most common form of the disease among women, accounting for 27.4% of all cases, and 17.4% of cancer deaths in women.

And even though stomach cancer rates are falling, it still accounts for 5.9% of all new cases and 8.1% of all cancer deaths.

In men, lung cancer was the commonest form of cancer, followed by prostate cancer.

Professor Boyle said screening programmes had helped to reduce deaths from breast cancer.

But he said progress had been slow in combating other forms of the disease, including bowel cancer.

The most effective way to cut cancer deaths would be to reduce the number of people who smoked, he said.

"We need a huge effort to find effective ways to help people stop smoking.

"Giving up smoking at any age benefits health."


Professor Boyle said there were wide variations in cancer rates across Europe.

For instance, lung cancer was a particular problem among men in Central and Eastern Europe, where smoking rates were high.

Rates of oral and laryngeal cancer were high in Hungary and Poland, due to excessive alcohol and tobacco consumption.

Professor John Toy, medical director of the charity Cancer Research UK, said it was important not to ignore other forms of cancer, which were still responsible for 50% of deaths.

But he said: "Smoking remains a major public health problem, not only for cancer but for illnesses such as heart disease.

"Smoking remains a major public health problem, not only for cancer but for illnesses such as heart disease.

"It is deeply worrying that so many girls and young women across Europe continue to take up smoking.

"De-glamorising tobacco and making enclosed public places smoke-free will help curb this trend."

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