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UK "behind" in cancer survival

If UK cancer survival rates were brought up to the best seen in Europe, close to 11,000 lives a year could be saved, research suggests.

In terms of a patient's likelihood of surviving the disease, England, Scotland and Wales lag behind most other European countries.

A major Eurocare study published last year showed that five-year survival rates for lung, breast, prostate and colorectal cancer were lower in the whole of the UK than in other countries apart from eastern Europe.

The study involved using Eurocare data to look at how many deaths could be avoided in England, Scotland and Wales when compared with 13 other European countries.

The researchers worked out that 6,535 lives could be saved every year if survival rates were as good as the European average, using data relating to patients diagnosed between 1995 and 1999.

If rates in the UK were as good as the best in Europe, this would add up to 10,774 fewer deaths from cancer each year, they said.

The breakdown showed that 1,492 deaths from breast cancer would be avoided if Britain matched the highest European survival rates, with the number at 1,687 for colorectal cancer and 1,324 for lung cancer.

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