UK cancer survival rates lag behind those of other European countries – study

Cancer survival rates in the UK continue to lag behind those of other European countries, research suggests, with experts flagging the need for earlier diagnosis and improved access to treatments.

The report is the latest to highlight the problem, with previous research suggesting that UK survival rates for breast cancer are a decade behind countries including France and Sweden.

“It is quite clear that outcomes in the vast majority of cancers are not where they need to be in the UK,” said Richard Torbett, executive director of the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI), which funded the latest study.

The research, lead by the Swedish Institute for Health Economics, expands on previous work which looked at a number of studies to assess the state of cancer care across Europe between 1995 and 2014.

The latest findings, launched with a website to showcase the data, offer an in-depth analysis of the UK situation, revealing that the number of new cases of cancer between 1995 and 2012 increased by 31% in total across Europe, and 12% in the UK.

The study suggests that although cancer survival rates have increased over the years, the UK’s improvements often lag behind those of other European countries.

With the exception of a type of skin cancer known as melanoma, the average adult five-year survival rates for patients diagnosed with nine other types of cancer between 2000 and 2007, were lower in the UK than the European average. While the five-year survival rates for colon cancer hit 58% on average across Europe, the figure for the UK was 52%.

What’s more, the UK was second only to Bulgaria for the worst five-year survival rates for lung cancer, with UK figures for patients diagnosed between 2000-2007 also below those for countries including Norway and Sweden for cases diagnosed around a decade earlier.

Analysis of 2014 figures further showed that while the UK spent 9.1% of its GDP on healthcare in 2014, the European average was 10.1%. Looking specifically at cancer spending, compared to countries including France, Denmark, Austria and Ireland, the UK spent less on cancer per person, with Germany spending almost twice as much per head.

“That investment covers everything: that is, from diagnosis through to surgery, radiotherapy, medicines are obviously included in that – but so is everything else,” said Torbett. “It is not particularly surprising that, if there is significant under-investment, the UK isn’t seeing the scale and speed of benefits that are seen in some of these other European countries.”

The report also highlighted that the UK is lagging behind other large European countries, including France and Germany, in the uptake of new drugs.

Full story in the Guardian, 18 July 2017