Study: E.U. cancer rates to continue dropping

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E.U. mortality rates from cancer are expected to maintain their nearly universal descent in 2011, with overall rates projected to fall by 7 percent, despite a 25-million person increase in the absolute number of deaths at 1.28 million, according to a study published Feb. 8 in the Annals of Oncology.

While official cancer mortality figures are not available for a few years, “[e]stimates of current cancer mortality, in terms of absolute numbers and of rates, are essential for planning resource allocation and designing and evaluating cancer prevention and management strategies,” noted Matteo Malvezzi, PhD, of the department of epidemiology at the Istituto di Ricerche Farmacologiche ‘Mario Negri’ in Milan, Italy, and colleagues.

Malvezzi and co-authors estimated cancer mortality for 2011, using World Health Organization (WHO) cancer figures and EUROSTAT population statistics and taking into account recent statistical trends. The authors compiled their projections for the E.U. based on 2007 membership status (27 countries, minus Cyprus) and for six individual member countries (France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Spain and the U.K.).

“The predicted total cancer standardized mortality rate for 2011 showed favorable trends for all the studied countries in both sexes,” the authors reported, projecting a decline in mortality rates of 7 percent in men and 6 percent in women. Malvezzi and colleagues estimated that 1.28 million Europeans will die from cancer in 2011, up from 1.26 million in 2007.

Standardized total cancer death rates were put at 142.8 per 100,000 in men and 85.3 per 100,000 in women, amounting to 721,252 men and 560,184 women.

Poland fared the worst of the six individual countries analyzed for almost every type of cancer, garnering a 5 percent drop in cancer rates in men but only a 1 percent decline in women. Among males, Germany and the U.K. wielded the lowest mortality rates at 125.1 and 126.4 deaths per 100,000 men, representing drops of 10 percent and 8 percent since 2006 and 2007, respectively.

Conversely, aside from Poland, U.K. women fared the worst out of the countries studied with a mortality rate of 95.6 per 100,000. Spain showed the lowest cancer mortality rate for females, at 65.9 per 100,000 women.

Lung cancer proved the most deadly of all cancers, declining in men, who bear the brunt of lung cancer deaths, but actually increasing in women. The researchers predicted Poland’s lung cancer mortality rate to be nearly double that of the U.K., which was the lowest among the countries studied.

Malvezzi and colleagues also predicted reductions in breast cancer mortality rates across all countries. Spain led the group’s decline, with a rate of 11.3 per 100,000 women, while the U.K. showed the highest rate, 17.2 per 100,000. The authors argued that these drops were “essentially due to improved management and treatment of the disease.”

The researchers also projected declines in stomach cancer, which has been falling since the 1960s, as well as colorectal, prostate and uterine cancer. The latter two were attributed to effective cervical screening and improved diagnosis and treatment of prostate cancer.

“A substantial decline in total cancer mortality rates has been observed since the late 1980s in men and since even earlier in women in the E.U.,” the authors pointed out. “In men, the decline has continued in 2007 and will likely carry on up to 2011, and the greatest drop is predicted in Germany. For women too, the declines persist, but the trend in Polish women is less favorable.”

The authors expressed concern that Poland, which shows not only the highest cancer rates but also the slightest reductions, would continue to be indicative of other formerly nonmarket countries. “[D]espite general favorable trends, the gap in cancer mortality between Western and former nonmarket economy countries of Central and Eastern Europe is likely to persist for the foreseeable future,” Malvezzi and colleagues concluded.