EU Science Hub

Monitoring lung cancer burden in Europe

Scientists were able to highlight important variations in lung cancer burden across Europe’s regions Scientists were able to highlight important variations in lung cancer burden across Europe’s regions
©Minerva Studio, Adobe Stock 2018
Aug 01 2018

Today is World Lung Cancer Day, which aims to spread awareness about the impact of the disease on individuals and societies across the world.

In Europe, 2018 predictions of cancer incidence and mortality are available via the European Cancer Information System (ECIS).

These predictions stem from a collaborative exercise led by WHO's International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) in collaboration with the JRC, the European Network of Cancer Registries and the International Association of Cancer Registries.

Restricting to EU-28, ECIS estimates that in 2018 there will be 3 million new cases of cancer and over 1.4 million cancer-related deaths.

Scientists also expect lung cancer, the third most common type of newly diagnosed cancer in Europe, to cause the most deaths.

Relying on country-level information may not be sufficient to fully understand cancer trends and drive health policies.

For this reason, JRC scientists placed Europe's regions under the microscope in a report identifying cancer trends within and across countries.

The study provides evidence to help authorities in developing the right policies to prevent, diagnose and treat the disease.

Smoking remains the dominant cause of lung cancer in Europe, accounting for over 80% of cases.

The report identifies lung cancer trends and analyses these alongside smoking habits, gender and geographic distribution.

It also covers trends in stomach cancer and breast cancer, giving an overview on the main risk factors and prevention measures for each.

Regarding lung cancer, 2018 estimates for incidence and mortality rates vary considerably across EU countries, reflecting the different levels of the smoking epidemic.

Lung cancer incidence in men has been decreasing in most European countries over the last two decades, while women have experienced an increase.

This generally correlates to the difference in smoking habit trends, where a decrease in smoking prevalence has been evident for men for a longer period than for women.

By increasing the level of detail to include regions, scientists were able to highlight important variations that are otherwise diluted when considering only the national level and indicating therefore that country-level information may not be sufficient to exhaustively depict cancer trends and drive health policies.

The incidence and mortality figures reported above are based on population-based cancer registries which collect, manage and analyse data on new patients diagnosed with cancer occurring in a well-defined population.

Cancer burden indicators in Europe: insights from national and regional information

For more than 30 years since the first 'Europe against cancer' programme was launched, actions taken at EU level were implemented to extend and save lives.

The Commission has been at the forefront of tackling risk factors, promoting screening to detect cancer early, and best practices to help EU countries improve the quality, effectiveness, resilience of health systems and to reduce inequalities in access to health services.

Population-based cancer registries are the data providers that enable the monitoring of cancer frequency and collecting information on new cancer cases in well-defined populations.

They are critical resources for the clinical and epidemiological investigation of cancer and for the planning and evaluation of cancer prevention and control programmes.

The European Cancer Information System (ECIS) application is a web-based tool conceived and developed by the JRC to report and disseminate cancer burden indicators at European level, on incidence, mortality and survival, from data submitted by around 150 European cancer registries.

It provides added value by allowing regional and national comparisons of harmonised cancer indicators, quantifying the burden of cancers and following its trends and changes over time. It can help to understand the causes of certain types of cancer and compare best practices in prevention, diagnosis and treatment interventions.

The Socio-economic regional microscope series

This analysis is part of the JRC's Socio-economic regional microscope series of short publications which aim to open-up new areas of analysis, and present the stories which can only be told using regional socio-economic data.

The reports, data and maps are available on the Territorial Dashboard website of the JRC Knowledge Centre for Territorial Policies, in the Thematic Analyses section.

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