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Last Updated: Wednesday, 7 February 2007, 00:01 GMT
Cancer 'to become bigger burden'
Lung cancer
Lung cancer is the biggest killer
Rising rates of cancer diagnosis will put an increasing strain on health care systems across Europe, experts warn.

An Annals of Oncology study estimates there were 3.2 million new cases of cancer in Europe in 2006 - up from 2.9 million in 2004.

Lead researcher Professor Peter Boyle said the key factor was the increasing average age of the population.

He said urgent action, such as measures to improve diet, increase exercise and cut obesity and smoking, was needed.

Professor Boyle, who is director of the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) in Lyon, France, also called for widespread screening for breast and colorectal cancer.

Lung: 334,800
Colorectal: 207,400
Breast: 131,900
Stomach: 118,200
Figures are estimates for 2006

He said: "With an estimated 3.2 million new cases and 1.7 million deaths each year, cancer remains an important public health problem in Europe, and the ageing of the European population will cause these numbers to continue to increase, even if age-specific rates of cancer remain constant."

The study shows the top four killers are lung, colorectal, breast and stomach cancer.

It is estimated that 334,800 people in Europe died from lung cancer in 2006 - nearly 20% of the total number of cancer deaths.

Professor Boyle said the overwhelming majority of lung cancer was caused by tobacco smoking, and measures to cut smoking rates remained a top priority.

He said the rise in breast cancer diagnoses was in part due to screening programmes picking up the disease - often at an early stage.

Prostate cancer

Use of the PSA (prostate specific antigen) test had also led to prostate cancer becoming the most frequently diagnosed cancer in men (345,900 cases in 2006).

Breast: 429,900
Colorectal: 412,900
Lung: 386,300
Figures are estimates for 2006

However, despite better detection, the ageing population meant that deaths from prostate cancer had increased by around 16% since 1995.

Professor Boyle said deaths from colorectal cancer had increased by 1.8% since 2004.

He said lifestyle interventions could potentially have a significant effect on cutting rates of this disease, but there was also a need for organised screening programmes throughout Europe.

Deaths from stomach cancer are falling in men and women throughout Europe, however Central and Eastern Europe is a blackspot, possibly because of unhealthy diet.

In the UK, more than one in three people will be diagnosed with the disease at some point in their lives, and it is responsible for a quarter of all deaths.

Ruth Yates, of Cancer Research UK, said: "This report shows that cancer incidence in UK males is lower than the EU average - this is largely the result of smoking cessation which has led to falls in male lung cancer incidence.

"Incidence among UK women is higher than the EU average and this is most likely to be related to higher breast cancer incidence rates."

She said new drugs, better screening techniques, and new treatment technology were helping to cut the number of people dying from cancer.

But she said the number of people being diagnosed would rise - and it was vital that the NHS put in place measures to cope with increased demand.

Breast cancer cases have soared
29 Sep 06 |  Health

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