Background: We provide an up-to-date international comparison of cancer survival, assessing whether England is 'closing the gap' compared with other high-income countries.
Methods: Net survival was estimated using national, population-based, cancer registrations for 1.9 million patients diagnosed with a cancer of the stomach, colon, rectum, lung, breast (women) or ovary in England during 1995-2012. Trends during 1995-2009 were compared with estimates for Australia, Canada, Denmark, Norway and Sweden. Clinicians were interviewed to help interpret trends.
Results: Survival from all cancers remained lower in England than in Australia, Canada, Norway and Sweden by 2005-2009. For some cancers, survival improved more in England than in other countries between 1995-1999 and 2005-2009; for example, 1-year survival from stomach, rectal, lung, breast and ovarian cancers improved more than in Australia and Canada. There has been acceleration in lung cancer survival improvement in England recently, with average annual improvement in 1-year survival rising to 2% during 2010-2012. Survival improved more in Denmark than in England for rectal and lung cancers between 1995-1999 and 2005-2009.
Conclusions: Survival has increased in England since the mid-1990s in the context of strategic reform in cancer control, however, survival remains lower than in comparable developed countries and continued investment is needed to close the international survival gap.