Introduction: population-based survival analyses are fundamental to assess the impact of public health interventions and new therapies in cancer control. This monograph updates previous reports on cancer patient survival in Italy up to the year 2007.
Material and methods: we extracted from the Network of Italian Cancer Registries (AIRTUM) database over 1,490,000 records of tumours diagnosed during 1990-2007 and followed up to the end of 2008, including all multiple tumours. We used the Ederer II method to estimate relative survival (RS) for 29 different types of neoplasm. Five-year relative survival rates were analysed by gender and macroarea. Trends in 5-, 10- and 15-year RS were studied by gender over six 3-year diagnostic periods, from 1990 to 2007. Conditional 5-year RS was also computed by gender and macroarea. Hybrid approaches were applied to exploit the recent survival experiences of cases diagnosed up to 2007. Adjustment for age was performed using EUROCARE weights. Additional sections describe cancer patient survival in childhood and in elderly patients and provide a comparison of cancer patient survival rates in Italy with those of other countries.
Results: Standardized 5-year RS for all tumours but skin in 52% for men and 61% for women. Patient survival has improved for almost all types of cancer: from 1990 to 2007 5-year RS has increased by 15% for all cancers but skin; the exceptions are some cancers with poor prognosis, where patient survival has remained basically unchanged. In males, RS was usually lower than in females, but trend analysis shows that the gap is narrowing. We also report persisting lower RS in southern Italy: 5-year RS in the South is usually from 4% to 10% lower than in the North and Centre.
Conclusion: this study provides valuable information for all stakeholders in cancer control, both in Italy and elsewhere. Increasing survival reflects improvements in various areas of cancer control. On the other hand, delayed diagnosis and suboptimal management are consistent with the reported differences in survival within the country.