Intended for healthcare professionals


Cancer survival in Britain

BMJ 1999; 319 doi: (Published 21 August 1999) Cite this as: BMJ 1999;319:461

Is poorer than that of her comparable European neighbours

  1. Karol Sikora, vice president, clinical research (oncology)
  1. Pharmacia and Upjohn, via Robert Koch, 20152 Milan, Italy

    Collecting cancer statistics is a dry business. Much effort, dedication, and skill have been put into developing an effective network of cancer registries around Europe. Further work to standardise the datasets and provide efficient quality control now makes the comparison of cancer survival between European countries realistic. Britain does not do well in such a comparison.1

    The clearest outcome indicator for the quality of cancer care is the percentage of patients surviving five years after diagnosis. Most patients can be considered cured after this time, having actuarial survival curves exactly parallel to people of similar age and sex without cancer.2 The current analysis comes from 33 cancer registries in 17 countries. The figures cover the period 1978-89 and represent the most recent available, to allow for a five year maturation period and for the subsequent collection, analysis, and quality control. Because data come from cancer registries, they do not always cover the entire populations of all the participating countries. Within the United Kingdom data were available for the whole of Scotland and for almost half (46%) …

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