Non-communicable diseases


Cancer is one of the main priorities of the European Commission on the health domain. President von der Leyen´s political guidelines refer to “a European plan to fight cancer, to support  Member States in improving cancer control and care" to reduce the suffering caused by this disease and for Europe to take the lead in the fight against cancer.

EU policy on cancer

The mission letter to the Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides defines that the four pillars of the Europe Beating Cancer Plan will be:

  • prevention
  • early diagnosis
  • treatment, and
  • follow-up care

The Europe Beating Cancer Plan will be linked to other priorities of the new Commission and has the support of Members of the European Parliament, Member States and stakeholders who work together with the Commission to improve cancer prevention and care in Europe.

On 4 February 2020, the European Commission started the public consultation of the plan at an event entitled ‘Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan: Let’s Strive for More’ in the European Parliament in Brussels.

Cancer is one of the European research and innovation missions and part of the Horizon Europe framework beginning in 2021.

Cancer is a major health issue as referred in Article 168 TFEU, which gives the EU the competence to support, coordinate or supplement the actions of the Member States for the protection and improvement of human health.

The European Commission has been working on cancer with EU Member States and civil society for decades, in close collaboration with the World Health Organisation, the Joint Research Centre and the International Agency for Research on Cancer.

Cancer: a joint approach

Cancer is the second leading cause of mortality in EU countries after cardiovascular diseases, accounting for 26% of all deaths in 2013. More than 1,3 million people died of cancer in 2013 across all EU Member States.

However, 40% of cancers are preventable if we implement what we know already. It is also one of a number of non-communicable diseases that share common risk factors and whose prevention and control would benefit the majority of citizens.

According to the State of Health in the EU reports, cancer is recognised as one of the major contributors to premature deaths in the EU. It has an impact not only on individual health, but also on the national health and social systems, the governmental budgets and the productivity and growth of the economy, including a healthy workforce.

Evidence suggests that there is an urgent need for more effective, accessible and resilient health systems. In particular, to support Member States who are most in need of evidence-based policy making, to ensure that all EU citizens have access to effective cancer prevention and care.

A number of achievements have paved the way for a joint approach to fighting cancer in the EU. Below are links on the basic documents that have underpinned EU action, and information on ongoing and past EU initiatives in the area of cancer prevention and control.

Policy framework

Initiatives on cancer prevention and control

Initiatives coordinated by the Joint Research Centre of the Commission in the area of cancer prevention and control, include the:

Health Programme funding contributes to the European Reference Networks on cancer as well as joint actions on:

Related information