Introduction: Data on the survival of all incident cases collected by population-based cancer registries make it possible to evaluate the overall performance of diagnostic and therapeutic actions on cancer in those populations. EUROCARE-3 is the third round of the EUROCARE project, the largest cancer registry population based collaborative study on survival in European cancer patients. The EUROCARE-3 study analysed the survival of cancer patients diagnosed from 1990 to 1994 and followed-up to 1999. Sixty-seven cancer registries of 22 European countries characterised by differing health systems participated in the study. This paper includes essays providing brief overviews of the state and evolution of the health systems of the considered countries and comments on the relation between cancer survival in Europe and some European macro-economic and health system indicators, in the 1990s.
Overview of the european health systems: The European health systems underwent a great deal of reorganisation in the last decade; a general tendency being to facilitate expanding involvement of the private sector in health care, a process which occurred mainly in the eastern countries (i.e. the Czech Republic, Estonia, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia). In contrast, organisational changes in the northern European countries (i.e. Denmark, Iceland, Finland and Sweden) tended to confirm the established public sector systems. Other countries, including the UK and some southern European countries (i.e. England, Scotland, Wales, Malta and Italy) have reduced the public role while the systems remain basically public, at least at present. Our findings clearly suggest that cancer survival (all cancer combined) is related to macro-economic variables such as the gross domestic product (GDP), the total national (public and private) expenditure on health (TNEH) and the total public expenditure on health (TPEH). We found, however, that survival is related to wealth (GDP), but only up to a certain level, after which survival continues to be related to the level of health investment (both TNEH and TPEH). According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the TNEH increased during the 1990s in all EUROCARE-3 countries, while the ratio of TPEH to TNEH reduced in all countries except Portugal.
Conclusions: Cancer survival depends on the widespread application of effective diagnosis and treatment modalities, but our enquiry suggests that the availability of these depends on macro-economic determinants, including health and public health investment. Analysis of the relationship between health system organisation and cancer outcome is complicated and requires more information than is at present available. To describe cancer and cancer management in Europe, the European Cancer Health Indicator Project (EUROCHIP) has proposed a list of indicators that have to be adopted to evaluate the effects on outcome of proposed health system modifications.