Page last updated at 16:41 GMT, Tuesday, 21 August 2007 17:41 UK

Scots 'worst' for cancer survival

Breast screening
Survival rates for Scottish women were the lowest in Europe

Cancer survival rates for people in Scotland are among the worst in Europe, according to new research.

The percentage of Scottish women surviving the disease for more than five years was the lowest in Europe, despite massive investment programmes.

The study, published in the Lancet Oncology, charted patients diagnosed in 21 countries who survived cancer for more than five years.

In Scotland, less than half of women were alive five years after diagnosis.

With only 48% of women surviving, Scotland sits at the bottom of the league table, despite having three-times the health budget of places like Poland and the Czech Republic.

This compares with 52.7% in England and 51.9% in Ireland.

Common cancers

Survival rates for Scottish men were also in the bottom four of the league table, with only 40.2% living more than five years after diagnosis.

The authors of the report said that survival rates for cancer were highest in northern Europe, although they were improving in eastern Europe.

The report also revealed that Scottish survival rates for different types of cancer were among the lowest in Europe.

For kidney cancer, the survival rate was 45.9%, the lowest of the 21 countries, while the 71% survival figure for prostate cancer was among the lowest.

The number of women alive five years after breast cancer diagnosis was 77.3%, similar to England at 77.8%.

In Scotland, 16.6% of people survived stomach cancer for five years, similar to England but almost half the figure in Italy, where 33.2% of patients live on.

Although significant improvements have been made in recent years, we are not complacent
Shona Robison
Minister for public health

One of the authors of the report, Prof Ian Kunkler, consultant in clinical oncology at the Western General in Edinburgh, warned against making direct comparisons with Scotland and eastern European countries.

He said: "One has to be very careful about the comparison with Eastern Europe as the amount of cancer registration data that we have from places like Poland and the Czech Republic is less than we have for the UK, where we have a virtually complete cancer registration."

The study compared five-year survival rates for eight common cancers.

It found that, overall, rates were improving and gaps between rich and poor countries were narrowing.

But although Scotland spends £1,500 per capita a year on healthcare, three-times more than Poland, Slovenia and the Czech Republic, the results do not always reflect the outlay, according to the report.

Survival rates for Hodgkin's disease and lung cancer in Scotland were similar to those in eastern Europe.

The 28.5% of women surviving ovarian cancer was similar to England, where 29.3% survive, but behind France, which tops the table with 36.4% of patients alive five years after diagnosis.

Minister for public health Shona Robison said: "We are on track to meet the 2010 target of a 20% reduction in mortality rates from cancer in the under-75s.

"Figures show that since 1995 there has been an 18.1% drop in the overall rate of deaths from cancer in Scotland.

"There have been significant improvements in survival from cancer in Scotland.

"However, although significant improvements have been made in recent years, we are not complacent. We know there is still more to do to make sure Scots have the best possible chances of long-term survival following a cancer diagnosis."

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