News Roundup [abridged Versions Appear In The Paper Journal]

UK cancer survival rates are no worse than rest of Europe

BMJ 2005; 330 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.330.7495.808-b (Published 07 April 2005) Cite this as: BMJ 2005;330:808
  1. Roger Dobson
  1. Abergavenny

    Cancer mortality in the United Kingdom is not generally worse than in other European countries and is sometimes better. Richard Doll and Jill Boreham compared deaths from cancer in five European countries of similar economic status, Italy, France, Sweden, the Netherlands, and the UK, in a report in the British Journal of Cancer, published online on 22 March (http://www.bjcancer.com/, doi:10.1038/sj.bjc.6602450).

    “It is worrying when reports suggested that survival rates have been lower in the UK than in some other European countries. However, were the survival rates truly comparable? We have long known how unreliable reports of differences in survival have been when different treatments have been used by different people or in different institutions and that reliable comparisons came to be made only when the principle of controlled trials was accepted,” said the authors.

    The authors looked at mortality in the five countries over the past 20-50 years. The falling mortality from cancer of the testis and Hodgkin's disease, two uncommon cancers whose newer treatments have greatly improved survival, were roughly the same in all five countries from the mid 1980s. For stomach and prostate cancers trends in the UK mortality data were also no worse than those in the other four countries.

    For cancers of the breast, lung, and large bowel the trends have been more complex, however, and the UK has not done as well as elsewhere. Yet, for all cancers combined (other than lung cancer), mortality in men in the UK has consistently been the fourth lowest since the 1960s.

    The combined trends for women, although consistently downward for all five countries since the mid-1980s, are less satisfactory for the UK, says the report. The current rates are slightly higher than those for Italy, France, and Sweden and about the same as those for the Netherlands, due possibly, said the authors, to the prevalence of smoking in women.

    “The British rates for the mortality from cancer, which is the ultimate criterion by which the success or failure of any system of care and therapy for patients with cancer has to be judged, are not generally worse than those in other economically comparable European countries, and, indeed, are sometimes better,” said the report.

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