Measuring progress against cancer in Europe: Has the 15% decline targeted for 2000 come about?

P. Boyle, A. d'Onofrio, P. Maisonneuve, G. Severi, C. Robertson, M. Tubiana, U. Veronesi

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Background: Against a background of increasing cancer rates in the mid-1980s, Europe Against Cancer launched an ambitious programme aiming to reduce cancer mortality by 15% by the year 2000. A programme of activities and research, focussing on three major themes [prevention (particularly tobacco control), screening, and education and training], was developed together with the European Code Against Cancer. Methods: To evaluate the outcome of the programme, all cancer mortality data were abstracted for each member state of the European Union (EU) until the most recent year available. For each gender group in each member state, age-specific rates were estimated for 2000. For each country-gender grouping, the standardized mortality rate (SMR) and expected numbers of deaths in 2000 were calculated based on the age-specific rates for 1985 and the population estimates for 2000. The ratio of the SMR in 2000 to that of 1985, was used as the measure to compare mortality rates. Results: In 1985, there were 850 194 cancer deaths in the EU. Based solely on demographic considerations, this number was expected to rise to 1 033 083 in the year 2000. Between 1985 and 2000, the number of cancer deaths increased in both men (+12%) and women (+9%). The target of a 15% reduction in the expected numbers of cancer deaths in the EU was not met, although the 10% reduction in number of deaths expected in men and 8% in women, along with a 11% reduction in risk of cancer death in men and a 10% reduction in women, was noteworthy. Only Austria and Finland achieved the 15% reductions in deaths in both men and women. The UK and Luxembourg (where the small population and annual number of deaths make interpretation difficult) came close to meeting these targets, as did Italy. Portugal and Greece had the poorest performance, with increases in each gender group. Conclusions: Cancer deaths in the EU were expected to rise from 850 194 in 1985 to 1033 083 in 2000. It is estimated that there will be 940510 cancer deaths that year, due to the decline in risk observed since 1985. The Europe Against Cancer programme appears to have been associated with the avoidance of 92573 cancer deaths in the year 2000. With few exceptions, most countries are experiencing declining trends in cancer death rates, which seem set to continue, at least in the near future. Renewed tobacco control efforts are clearly needed for women, and there is a strong case for the introduction of organized breast and cervix screening programmes in all member states. Continuing to emphasize prevention within cancer control will help to promote the continuing decline in death rates in the future.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1312-1325
Number of pages14
JournalAnnals of Oncology
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - Aug 1 2003


  • Cancer
  • Epidemiology
  • Europe
  • Mortality
  • Survival

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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