Background: This review of the EUROCARE-4 results attempts to separate out the early and late mortality effects contributing to the widely reported poorer 5-year survival rates for cancer patients in the United Kingdom compared with other European countries for 26 cancer sites.
Methods: Patients diagnosed with cancer in 1996-1999 in 23 European countries were included in the analyses. Comparison of 1-year, 5-year and 5|1-year (i.e. only including those patients who had survived to 1 year) survival estimates between data for England and the 'European average' was undertaken. This analysis was to highlight the relative contribution of early diagnosis, using 1-year survival as a proxy measure, on 5-year survival for the different sites of cancer. Three groups of cancer sites were identified according to whether the survival differences at 1, 5 and 5|1-years were statistically significant.
Results and conclusions: Breast cancer showed significantly poorer 1- and 5-year survival estimates in England, but the 5|1-year survival figure was not significantly different. Thus, successful initiatives around awareness and early detection could eradicate the survival gap. In contrast, the 5|1-year survival estimates remained significantly worse for lung, colorectal and prostate cancers, showing that although early detection could make some difference, late effects such as treatment and management of the patients were also influencing long-term outcome differences between England and Europe.