Experts had calculated that EU cancer deaths would rise from just over 850,000 in 1985 to over 1.03 million in 2000 due to demographic reasons, but the new research shows that when final statistics are available, the figure is likely to be nearer to 940,500.
Although the EU's Europe Against Cancer Programme failed to meet the ambitious target it set in the mid 1980s of cutting deaths by 15% by the year 2000, the programme does appear to have been associated with the avoidance of 92,500 deaths, said lead researcher Professor Peter Boyle, Director of the Division of Epidemiology and Biostatistics at the European Institute of Oncology in Milan, Italy.
Only Austria and Finland actually hit the 15% target for men and for women although the UK, Italy and Luxembourg came close with the UK and Luxembourg meeting the target among men. Overall in the EU there was a 10% reduction in the number of deaths expected among men and an 8% reduction among women. Portugal and Greece had the poorest performances with increases above the expected number of deaths among both men and women. The relative risk of death [the ratio of the standardised mortality rate in 2000 compared to 1985] fell overall in the EU by 11% in men and 10% in women.
"Although we fell short of our ambitious target the reductions are noteworthy and about half of the expected increase in cancer deaths was avoided," said Professor Boyle. "With few exceptions most countries are experiencing declining trends in cancer death rates, which seem set to continue, at least in the near future."
However, he warned against complacency. Over the fifteen year period the number of deaths from cancer rose by 12% in men
Contact: Margaret Willson
European Society for Medical Oncology