Differences in Nordic cancer patient survival observed today originate from the 1970s, but were first identified in a mortality prediction from 1995. This paper provides timely comparisons of survival using NORDCAN, a database with comparable information from the Nordic cancer registries. Elucidation of the differences is important when monitoring cancer care generally and evaluating the impact of cancer plans. MATERIAL AND METHODS: The NORDCAN database 1964-2003 with follow-up for death through 2006, was used to analyse incidence, mortality, and survival for all NORDCAN cancer sites. We analysed 5-year relative survival and excess mortality rates in the first three months and 2-5 years after diagnosis. RESULTS: The time trends in survival 1989-2003 were largely similar between the Nordic countries with increases in 14 sites among men and 16 among women. In all countries the excess mortality rates were highest in the first three months after diagnosis, but decreased to similar levels across all countries 2-5 years after diagnosis. Comparing countries excess mortality was highest in Denmark irrespective of follow-up period. Lower survival was observed for Danish cancer patients in 23 of the 33 cancer sites in men and 26 of 35 sites in women. Low and similar levels of survival were observed for cancers of the oesophagus, lung, liver and pancreas, while an 8-10 percentage point difference in survival was found between countries for colorectal cancer. CONCLUSION: The notable differences in Nordic cancer patient survival can be linked to national variations in risk factors, co-morbidity, and the implementation of screening. Improved treatment and primary prevention, in particular the targeting of tobacco and alcohol use, is required to improve cancer control. The recently-initiated cancer plans in Denmark and Norway are yet to show an observable effect on the corresponding cancer survival.
Cancers of the digestive organs (including the oesophagus, stomach, small intestine, colon, rectum and anus, liver, gallbladder, and pancreas) constitute one-fifth of all cancer cases in the Nordic countries and is a group of diseases with diverse time trends and varying consequences for public health. In this study we examine trends in relative survival in relation to the corresponding incidence and mortality rates in the Nordic countries during the period 1964-2003. MATERIAL AND METHODS: Data were retrieved from the NORDCAN database for the period 1964 to 2003, grouped into eight 5-year periods of diagnosis. The patients were followed up until the end of 2006. Analysis comprised trends in 5-year relative survival, excess mortality and age-specific relative survival. RESULTS: Survival following cancers of the colon and rectum has increased continuously over the observed period, yet Danish patients fall behind those in the other Nordic countries. The largest inter-country variation is seen for the rare cancers in the small intestine. There has been little increase in prognosis for patients diagnosed with cancers of the liver, gallbladder or pancreas; 5-year survival is generally below 15%. Survival also remains consistently low for patients with oesophageal cancer, while minor increases in survival are seen among stomach cancer patients in all countries except Denmark. The concomitant incidence and mortality rates of stomach cancer have steadily decreased in each Nordic country at least since 1964. CONCLUSION: While the site-specific variations in mortality and survival largely reflect the extent of changing and improving diagnostic and clinical practices, the incidence trends highlight the importance of risk factor modification. Alongside the ongoing clinical advances, effective primary prevention measures, including the control of alcohol and tobacco consumption as well as changing dietary pattern, will reduce the incidence and mortality burden of digestive cancers in the Nordic countries.
BACKGROUND: Diagnoses of cancer of the brain, thyroid, eye, bone, and soft tissues are categorised by heterogeneity in disease frequency, survival, aetiology and prospects for curative therapy. In this paper, temporal trends in patient survival in the Nordic countries are considered. MATERIAL AND METHODS: Age-standardised incidence and mortality rates, 5-year relative survival, and excess mortality rates for varying follow-up periods are presented, as are age-specific 5-year relative survival by country, sex and 5-year diagnostic period. RESULTS: Brain cancer incidence rates have been rising but mortality has been relatively stable, with 5-year survival uniformly increasing from the early-1970s, particularly in younger patients. Five-year survival from brain cancer among men varies between 45% and 50% for men and 60% to 70% in women, with excess deaths decreasing with time in each of the Nordic populations. Age-standardised incidence rates of thyroid cancer have been mainly increasing during the 1960s and 1970s, although trends thereafter diverge, with 5-year relative survival increasing 20-30 percentage points over the last 40 years to around 80-90%. Thyroid cancer survival is consistently lower in Denmark, particularly in patients diagnosed aged over 60, while there is less geographic variation in excess deaths three months beyond initial diagnosis. Relative survival from eye cancer increased with time from approximately 60% in 1964-1968 to 80% 1999-2003, while for bone sarcoma, incidence rates remained stable, mortality rates declined, and 5-year survival increased slightly to around 55-65%. Soft tissue sarcoma incidence and survival have been slowly increasing since the 1960s, with little variation in survival (around 65%) for the most recent period. CONCLUSIONS: There have been some notable changes in survival that can be linked to epidemiological and clinical factors in different countries over time. Time-varying proportions of the major histological subtypes might however have affected the survival estimates for a number of the cancer forms reviewed here.
BACKGROUND: Prostate, testicular and penile cancer constitute about one-third of the cancer incidence burden among Nordic males, but less than one-fifth of the corresponding mortality. The aim of this study is to describe and interpret trends in relative survival and excess mortality in the five Nordic populations. MATERIAL AND METHODS: Age-standardised incidence and mortality rates, 5-year relative survival, and excess mortality rates for varying follow-up periods are presented, as are age-specific 5-year relative survival by country, sex and 5-year diagnostic period. RESULTS: The vast majority of male genital cancer incident cases and deaths are prostate cancers, with 5-year and 10-year survival trends resembling the diagnostic-led increasing incidence over the past 25 years. Five-year prostate cancer survival is estimated at 53% in Denmark compared to 78% or above in the other Nordic populations for patients diagnosed 1999-2003. Excess mortality has declined over time, with Denmark having a greater excess of deaths compared to the other countries, irrespective of time of diagnosis. Concomitant with the declines in testicular cancer mortality, testicular cancer survival has increased since the 1970s in each Nordic country. Men diagnosed with testicular cancer in recent decades have had, on average, a continually better prognosis with time, with relative 5-year survival for patients diagnosed 1999-2003 ranging from 88% in Finland to 94% in Sweden. For the few patients diagnosed with cancer of the penis and other male genital organs, survival trends have been rather stable over time, with recent 5-year relative survival estimates ranging from 62% in Finland to 80% in Norway. CONCLUSIONS: There are intriguing country-specific and temporal variations in male genital cancer survival in the Nordic countries. Prognosis varies widely by cancer site and relates to both changing diagnostic and clinical practices. The increasing PSA detection and biopsy makes interpretation of the prostate cancer survival trends particularly difficult.
BACKGROUND: Breast cancer is the leading cancer among women worldwide in terms of both incidence and mortality. European patients have generally high 5-year relative survival ratios, and the Nordic countries, except for Denmark, have ratios among the highest. MATERIAL AND METHODS: Based on the NORDCAN database we present trends in age-standardised incidence and mortality rates of invasive breast cancer in the Nordic countries, alongside 5- and 10-year relative survival for the period of diagnosis 1964-2003 followed up to the end of 2006. Excess mortality rates are also provided for varying follow-up intervals after diagnosis. The analysis is confined to invasive breast cancer in Nordic women. RESULTS: Incidence increased rapidly in all five countries, whereas mortality remained almost unchanged. Both incidence and mortality rates were highest in Denmark. Between 1964 and 2003 both 5- and 10-year relative survival increased by 20-30 percentage points in all countries, and 10-year survival remained around 10 percentage points lower than 5-year survival. Relative survival was lowest in Denmark throughout the period, with a 5-year survival of 79% for years 1999-2003, but 83-87% in the other countries. From 1964 the youngest women had the highest survival ratios up until the introduction of screening, when a shift occurred towards higher survival among age groups 50-59 and 60-69 in each country, except for Denmark. Excess death rates during the first months after diagnosis were highest in Denmark. CONCLUSION: Breast cancer survival is high and rising in the Nordic countries, and probably relates to the early implementation of organised mammography screening in each country except Denmark and a high and relatively uniform standard of living, diagnosis and treatment. Denmark stands out with higher mortality and poorer survival. The major determinants may include a failure to instigate national breast screening and a greater co-morbidity resulting from a higher prevalence of both tobacco smoking and alcohol consumption.
Cancers of the female genital organs constitute more than 12% of all female cancers in the Nordic countries. The group includes cervix uteri, corpus uteri, ovary and other female genital organs including vulva and vagina, and in this study we compare the development in the Nordic countries regarding incidence, mortality and relative survival. MATERIAL AND METHODS: Data were retrieved from the NORDCAN database for the period 1964 to 2003, grouped into eight 5-year periods. The patients were followed up until the end of 2006. Analyses comprised trends in 5-year relative survival, excess mortality and age-specific relative survival. RESULTS: A substantial reduction of cervical cancer incidence followed the introduction of population-based screening in the 1970s and was also accompanied by a modest improvement in survival. Incidence trends in cancer of corpus uteri varied between the countries but the survival increased by around 20 percentage points during the study period in all countries. Ovarian cancer patients have the lowest survival among female genital cancers, but survival increased 10-15 percentage points over the 40 years of observation, while the incidence and mortality were rather stable throughout the observed period. Cancers of the other female genital organs, including vulva and vagina, are rare diagnoses and only small changes in incidence, mortality and survival have been observed over time. CONCLUSION: The declining trends in cervical cancer incidence and mortality, and improving survival of corpus uteri cancer patients, are in contrast with the rather poor prognosis associated with an ovarian cancer diagnosis. Cancer-specific differences between countries in the survival of female patients diagnosed with cancers of the cervix uteri, corpus uteri and other female genital organs are small.
Comparable data on cancer incidence and mortality in Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden are available for analysis through a collaboration of the national Cancer Registries via the NORDCAN website (http://ancr.nu). In the continued spirit of Nordic collaborative research, a number of studies examining trends in cancer survival are published in this journal. MATERIAL AND METHODS: The data were divided into eight 5-year periods by sex in five Nordic countries. Age-standardised 5-year relative survival ratios and excess mortality rates in the short-term (first month and 1-3 months following diagnosis), and the long-term (2-5 years after diagnosis) were calculated, as were age-specific 5-year relative survival using cohort-survival methods. A hybrid method combining the cohort and period methods was used for the period 1999-2003 as not all patients were followed for five years. Age-standardisation used the International Cancer Survival Standard, and calculation of expected deaths used country-specific population mortality rates. RESULTS: The data series constitutes 3 360 397 tumours among 3 160 802 patients followed up for death through 2006 for 39 different cancer sites diagnosed in the years 1964-2003. The paper describes the data, exclusions and imputations, design and analysis, age structure and standardisation procedures, follow-up, and case-mix adjustment methods. CONCLUSION: The strengths of this study include the overall comparability and quality of the data, the national coverage, and the length of the time series. Collecting and analysing data from the five Nordic countries for 39 different cancer sites over 40 years in a systematised and comparable way is a major undertaking. A thorough description of the analyses, definitions and exclusions in the survival study, supplemented with corresponding information on cancer incidence and mortality is needed for appropriate interpretation and comparison between countries, and between and within cancer sites. This information must be made available to provide appropriate interpretation of the site-specific results.
BACKGROUND: Previous studies have shown that there have been systematic differences between the Nordic countries in population-based relative survival of patients with respiratory cancer (lung, pleura, larynx, nose and sinuses). MATERIAL AND METHODS: Relative survival of patients with respiratory cancer diagnosed in the Nordic countries in 1964-2003 and followed up to the end of 2006 was studied and contrasted with developments in incidence and mortality. RESULTS: For cancer of the lung, relative survival is lower in Danish patients than in the other countries during the first months of follow-up after diagnosis. For cancer of pleura, the relative survival ratios indicate that there may be problems in the official coding of the causes of death in Denmark, Norway and Sweden. There has been little improvement in survival of patients with cancer of the respiratory organs in the Nordic countries over time. CONCLUSIONS: The slightly lower survival of Danish lung cancer patients may be related to a less favourable stage distribution and to an increased prevalence of causal factors, affecting the mortality due to competing risks of death. A reclassification of official causes of death at the cancer registry may be needed for cancer of the pleura in order to make the corresponding mortality rates comparable between countries.
BACKGROUND: This is the first comprehensive population-based study on relative survival of lip, oral cavity and pharyngeal cancer in the Nordic countries. MATERIAL AND METHODS: Relative survival of patients with cancers of the lip, oral cavity, and pharynx diagnosed in the Nordic countries in 1964-2003 and followed up to the end of 2006 was studied and contrasted with trends in incidence and mortality. RESULTS: There are marked differences in incidence between countries and over time. The stability of the relative survival ratios gives support to the hypothesis that the incidence differences are more likely to be real and not materially affected by differences in definitions and coding. Of particular note are the steep rises in pharyngeal cancer incidence in Denmark in both sexes. Survival has only moderately improved over time and has tended to be slightly higher in females than males. CONCLUSIONS: Co-morbidity caused by smoking and high alcohol consumption are likely to be partially responsible for differences between countries. Advances in therapy and standards of care are also likely to have played a role in the increasing survival trends.
BACKGROUND: Previous studies have shown systematic differences between the Nordic Countries in population-based relative survival following a kidney or urinary bladder cancer diagnosis. Comparison of bladder cancer over time and between Nordic registries is complicated by variable coding practices with respect to the inclusion of in situ cases with invasive tumours. MATERIAL AND METHODS: Five-year relative survival of patients with urinary cancer diagnosed in the Nordic countries 1964-2003 and followed up for death through 2006 was studied and contrasted with developments in incidence and mortality. RESULTS: The survival following bladder cancer was higher than for kidney cancer and highest for men. Survival increased over the years in all countries, more for kidney cancer than bladder cancer. For Danish kidney cancer patients, the rate of increase over all the years has been lower than in the other countries, especially among women, resulting in a survival in Denmark some 10-20% points lower than elsewhere in 1999-2003. Danish bladder cancer patient survival was in the last period 4% points lower among men and 10% points lower among women than in the other Nordic countries. The differences were mainly found in the first year following diagnosis, where a higher excess mortality in Denmark was observed. Survival decreased with higher age at diagnosis. CONCLUSION: The increasing 5-year relative survival in all the Nordic countries for both kidney and bladder cancer are promising, but for kidney cancer a higher percentage detected coincidentally during an imaging investigation for other diseases could play a role. Denmark had the lowest survival, despite their known practice of including benign conditions with invasive bladder cancers. The lower Danish survival after kidney and bladder cancer in the first year after diagnosis could be due to later diagnosis on average, a higher co-morbidity from smoking-related diseases, and perhaps, less adequate cancer treatment and management in Denmark.