The EUROCARE project analysed cancer survival data from 45 population-based cancer registries in 17 European countries, revealing wide international differences in cancer survival. We calculated 5-year relative survival for 1836287 patients diagnosed with one of 13 cancers during the period 1978-1989. The data, from 20 cancer registries in 13 countries, were grouped into four regions: Finland, Sweden, Iceland (Northern Europe); Denmark, England and Scotland (UK and Denmark); France, The Netherlands, Germany, Italy and Switzerland (Western Europe); Estonia and Poland (Eastern Europe), and broken down into four periods (1978-1980, 1981-1983, 1984-1986, 1987-1989). For each cancer, mean European and regional survival was estimated as the weighted mean of 5-year relative survival in each country. Survival increased with time for all tumours, particularly for cancers of testis (12% increase, i.e. from 79.9 to 91.9%), breast, large bowel, skin melanoma (approximately 9-10%), and lymphomas (approximately 7%). For most solid tumours, survival was highest in Northern Europe and lowest in Eastern Europe, and also low in the UK and Denmark. Regional variation was less marked for the lymphomas. Survival improved more in Western than Northern Europe, and the differences between these regions fell for bowel cancer (from 8.0% for those diagnosed in 1978-1980 to 2% for those diagnosed in 1987-1989), breast cancer (from 7.4% to 3.9%), skin melanoma (from 13.4% to 11.0%) and Hodgkin's disease (from 7.2 to 0.6%). For potentially curable malignancies such as Hodgkin's disease, large bowel, breast and testicular cancers, there were substantial increases in survival, suggesting an earlier diagnosis and more effective treatment. The persisting regional differences suggest there are corresponding differences in the availability of diagnostic and therapeutic facilities, and in the effectiveness of healthcare systems.
EUROCARE-3 analysed the survival of 1815584 adult cancer patients diagnosed from 1990 to 1994 in 22 European countries. The results are reported in tables, one per cancer site, coded according to the International Classification of Diseases (ICD)-9 classification. The main findings of the tables are summarised and commented on in this article. For most solid cancers, wide differences in survival between different European populations were found, as also reported by EUROCARE-1 and EUROCARE-2, despite a remarkable (10%) overall increase in cancer survival from 1985 to 1994. Survival was highest in northern Europe (Sweden, Norway, Finland and Iceland), and fairly good in central-southern Europe (France, Switzerland, Austria and Spain). Survival was particularly low in eastern Europe, low in Denmark and the UK, and fairly low in Portugal and Malta. The mix of tumour stage at diagnosis explains much of the survival differences for cancers of the digestive tract, female reproductive system, breast, thyroid, and also skin melanoma. For tumours of the urinary tract and prostate, the differences were explained mainly by differences in diagnostic criteria and procedures. The case mix by anatomic subsite largely explains differences in survival for head and neck cancers. For oesophagus, pancreas, liver and brain cancer, with poor prognoses, survival differences were limited. Tumours, for which highly effective treatments are available, such as testicular cancer, Hodgkin's lymphoma and some haematological malignancies, had fairly uniform survival across Europe. Survival for all tumours combined (an indicator of the overall cancer care performance of a nation's health system) was better in young than old patients, and better in women than men. The affluence of countries influenced overall cancer survival through the availability of adequate diagnostic and treatment procedures, and screening programmes.
RATIONALE: Survival figures from a population-based study incorporate the overall practice in diagnosis, cure and clinical follow-up for a specific disease within a given health care system. Being the outcome of a number of individual, social and economical aspects, population-based survival may be thought as index for measuring the level of a country's development. DATA: The EUROCARE project, a European Cancer Registries (CR) concerted action, provided reliable information on survival for more than 800,000 cancer patients from 11 European countries. A great deal of epidemiologic information has derived from EUROCARE. Women had a longer survival than men for all studied tumour sites, except for the colon. European survival variability was fairly high for several cancers, but it was lower for cancers with a relatively good prognosis and those sensitive to treatment. The ranking of populations of cancer survival tended to be fairly stable for many cancers: CR of Switzerland and Finland ranked high and Polish CR low. Denmark, Italian and France CR did not substantially differ from the European survival average. For most cancers, prognosis improved during the studied period (years of diagnosis: 1978-1985). Survival figures for colon (r = 0.74, males; r = 0.73, women) and female breast cancer (r = 0.57) well correlated with the national health expenditure of different participating countries. The ITACARE study, a new Italian Cancer Registries collaborative project involving more than 100,000 cancer patients, was set up to study survival differences within the country. Survival of cancer patients was not homogeneous in 7 studied Italian regions (the estimated 5-year relative survival for all malignant neoplasms combined ranked from 37.8% in CR of Sicily to 42.1% in those of Emilia-Romagna). The lowest levels of regional health expenditures were accompanied by the lowest levels of prognosis for overall cancers. However, a relatively low correlation among patient cancer survival and the regional health expenditure (r = 0.21) was found, suggesting that other factors such as different efficiency in managing cancer may play a role in explaining the intracountry differences. CONCLUSIONS: Population-based survival figures may be used to study epidemiologic aspects, comparing different health systems, and may be interpreted as indexes for discussing inequalities in health in different populations.
This study concerns the survival of European patients diagnosed between 1978 and 1989 with cancer of corpus and cervix uteri and ovary. Variations in survival in relation to age, country and period of diagnosis were examined. Data from the EUROCARE study were supplied by population-based cancer registries in 17 countries to a common protocol. Five years after diagnosis, relative survival rates were 75, 62 and 35% for cancers of the endometrium, cervix and ovary, respectively. Survival decreased markedly with age. The decrease was especially evident for ovarian cancer, which declined from 65% (15-45 years) to 18% (75+ years). In 1985-1989 there were important inter-country differences in survival for European women with gynaecological cancers: Eastern European countries were characterised by low 5-year relative survival whilst in Sweden, Austria, The Netherlands and Switzerland survival was generally higher than for other European countries. From 1978-1989, 5-year relative survival improved slightly for cervical cancer and improved more among the oldest patients. Prognosis also improved slightly for patients with ovarian tumours and this increase (around 20%) was concentrated among patients between 15 and 64 years of age. Intercountry differences in survival did not in general reduce over time, although for ovarian cancer survival differences narrowed probably in relation to the more widespread use of more effective chemotherapy. Intercountry and time differences in survival for cervical cancer are almost certainly related to variations in the effectiveness of cervical screening programmes. For corpus uteri cancer there was no improvement in survival over the period of this study and intercountry survival differences for this cancer are probably related to differences in patient management.
Breast cancer is the most frequent malignancy among women in developed countries. Prognosis is better than for other major cancers, and an improvement in survival has been reported for several populations in recent decades. Within the framework of EUROCARE, a population-based project concerned with the survival and care of cancer patients in Europe, we analysed data from 119,139 women diagnosed with breast cancer between 1978 and 1985 in 12 countries and followed for at least 6 years. Multiple regression models of relative survival, which take mortality from all other causes in each area into account, were used to estimate the effect of age, period of diagnosis and country on survival. For the comparison between countries, survival rates were age-standardised to the age structure of the entire study population. Women aged 40-49 years at diagnosis had the best prognosis in all countries and throughout the study period. Women younger than 30 years at diagnosis had a worse prognosis than those aged 30-39. The highest relative survival at 5 years was in Finland and Switzerland (about 74%), intermediate levels were found for Italy, France, The Netherlands, Denmark and Germany (about 70%) and the lowest rates were in Spain, the United Kingdom, Estonia and Poland (55-64%). During the 6 months following diagnosis, survival was highly dependent on age and was sharply lower in women older than 49 years. For women surviving more than 6 months after diagnosis, survival was similar for all ages, although women aged 40-49 still had the better prognosis. The average rate of death from breast cancer fell by about 2.5% for each year of diagnosis between 1978 and 1985. This improvement manifested mainly in younger and older women, for whom survival was initially less good. The largest improvement was seen in Poland (-15% death risk per year). We suggest that the better survival of women aged 40-49 at diagnosis is related to lower levels of circulating sex hormones, resulting in reduced stimulation of tumour cell growth. Early diagnosis may also be important in the peri-menopausal period due to increased diagnostic attention. Low survival in the United Kingdom may be due to inadequate adherence to consensus treatment guidelines and greater variation in treatment.
OBJECTIVES: To analyze cervical cancer survival trends in 10 European countries using models that estimate the proportion of cured patients (having the same life expectancy as the general population) and the survival of fatal cases (who die from cervical cancer). METHODS: We considered 40,906 cases diagnosed over 12 years (1978-89) collected from cancer registries participating in EUROCARE. RESULTS: From 1978 to 1989, 5-year relative survival in Europe improved (60%-->63%). The proportion of cured patients increased slightly but significantly (53%-->55%, p = 0.05). For countries with poorer survival at the end of the 1970s the proportion of cured patients increased faster than average, particularly evident in England (49%-->56%) and Scotland (44%-->53%). By contrast, in Finland, Sweden and Germany with organized screening, 5-year survival and cure rate did not improve, but incidence declined to very low levels. CONCLUSIONS: Cervical screening can explain the trends in cervical cancer survival: this identifies premalignant lesions, reduces incidence and selectively prevents less aggressive cancers. The decreased proportion of the latter means that survival does not improve in countries with low incidence of cervical cancer. The increased proportion of cured patients with time shows that survival improvement was not due simply to earlier diagnosis with no patient advantage.