Background: Cancer survival is a key measure of the effectiveness of health-care systems. EUROCARE-the largest cooperative study of population-based cancer survival in Europe-has shown persistent differences between countries for cancer survival, although in general, cancer survival is improving. Major changes in cancer diagnosis, treatment, and rehabilitation occurred in the early 2000s. EUROCARE-5 assesses their effect on cancer survival in 29 European countries.
Methods: In this retrospective observational study, we analysed data from 107 cancer registries for more than 10 million patients with cancer diagnosed up to 2007 and followed up to 2008. Uniform quality control procedures were applied to all datasets. For patients diagnosed 2000-07, we calculated 5-year relative survival for 46 cancers weighted by age and country. We also calculated country-specific and age-specific survival for ten common cancers, together with survival differences between time periods (for 1999-2001, 2002-04, and 2005-07).
Findings: 5-year relative survival generally increased steadily over time for all European regions. The largest increases from 1999-2001 to 2005-07 were for prostate cancer (73.4% [95% CI 72.9-73.9] vs 81.7% [81.3-82.1]), non-Hodgkin lymphoma (53.8% [53.3-54.4] vs 60.4% [60.0-60.9]), and rectal cancer (52.1% [51.6-52.6] vs 57.6% [57.1-58.1]). Survival in eastern Europe was generally low and below the European mean, particularly for cancers with good or intermediate prognosis. Survival was highest for northern, central, and southern Europe. Survival in the UK and Ireland was intermediate for rectal cancer, breast cancer, prostate cancer, skin melanoma, and non-Hodgkin lymphoma, but low for kidney, stomach, ovarian, colon, and lung cancers. Survival for lung cancer in the UK and Ireland was much lower than for other regions for all periods, although results for lung cancer in some regions (central and eastern Europe) might be affected by overestimation. Survival usually decreased with age, although to different degrees depending on region and cancer type.
Interpretation: The major advances in cancer management that occurred up to 2007 seem to have resulted in improved survival in Europe. Likely explanations of differences in survival between countries include: differences in stage at diagnosis and accessibility to good care, different diagnostic intensity and screening approaches, and differences in cancer biology. Variations in socioeconomic, lifestyle, and general health between populations might also have a role. Further studies are needed to fully interpret these findings and how to remedy disparities.
Funding: Italian Ministry of Health, European Commission, Compagnia di San Paolo Foundation, Cariplo Foundation.
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