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New statistics for cancer in Europe show an overall downward trend for cancer deaths, and estimates show that there has been a fall in overall cancer deaths for both men and women from 2011 to 2007.
The downward trend is driven mainly by decreases in breast cancer mortality in women and in lung and colorectal cancer mortality in men.
These 3 cancers are "the top causes of cancer deaths, and these are showing major changes," said Carlo La Vecchia, MD, from the Department of Epidemiology at the Mario Negri Institute and faculty of medicine at the University of Milan, Italy.
Dr. La Vecchia and colleagues used a new mathematical model to predict cancer mortality. Their new estimates were published online February 8 in the Annals of Oncology.
The new model predicts that the total number of cancer deaths in the European Union will reach 1,281,436 in 2011, which works out to a standardized rate of 143 per 100,000 men and 85 per 100,000 women.
This compares with 1,256,001 cancer deaths in 2007, with standardized rates of 153.8 per 100,000 men and 90.7 per 100,000 women, corresponding to a 7% fall in men and a 6% fall in women, the researchers note.
In addition to the 3 cancers highlighted by Dr. La Vecchia, the model predicts declines in mortality for stomach, uterine, and prostate cancers, and for leukemia.
In fact, a downward trend in mortality rates was seen in all cancer types that were examined, with the exception of pancreatic cancer (which is stable in men and shows a slight increase in women) and lung cancer (which is increasing in women).
The rising rates of lung cancer in women are of particular concern, the researchers note. The number of women dying from lung cancer is increasing steadily across all of Europe — with the exception of the United Kingdom, which had the highest rates in women for a decade but is now seeing a leveling off.
"Despite these favorable trends in cancer death rates in Europe, the number of cancer deaths remains approximately stable, due to the ageing of the population," Dr. La Vecchia commented in a statement.
"Further, there is a persisting gap in cancer mortality between central and eastern European countries and western Europe; this is likely to persist for the foreseeable future," he said.
The new model predicts that Germany will see the greatest drop in overall cancer.
In contrast, the highest total cancer mortality rates in both sexes are seen in Poland, where there has been no improvement in recent years, which is "particularly worrying," the researchers note.
France is also singled out for concern; the predicted decline in cancer deaths there is modest because of the recent unfavorable trends in lung cancer among French (and Spanish) women.
Ongoing Downward Trend
The decline in cancer deaths from 2007 to 2011 outlined in this report is a continuation of the downward trend that has occurred in Europe over the past few decades.
"A substantial decline in total cancer mortality rates has been observed since the late 1980s in men, and since even earlier in women in the European Union," the authors write. Between 1990–1994 and 2000–2004, the rates declined by 9% in men and by 8% in women, they note. These declines continued in 2007, and this latest model predicts that they will continue to do so up to 2011.


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