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Tuesday 25th October 2016

Cancer survival rates vary hugely

21st July 2008

A global study of cancer survival rates, five years after diagnosis, has shown wide variations from country to country.


The best five-year survival rates appear to coincide with the amount of spending on healthcare, and were to be found in the United States, Australia, Canada, France and Japan.

The worst rates were found in Algeria, according to a recent report in the journal Lancet Oncology.

The United Kingdom's rates were worse than most of its neighbours in western Europe, although they have increased since the 1990s when this data was collected.

The study, across 31 countries, showed that higher spending often resulted in quicker access to testing and treatment.

Cancer experts said it was the first major study to compare cancer survival across five continents and that it highlighted the stark differences in survival between poor and wealthy countries.

Led by Professor Michel Coleman of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, the research was carried out by more than 100 scientists around the world.

The team analysed data on more than two million cancer patients who were diagnosed and treated during the 1990s.

The results varied depending on the type of cancer, with the United States showing the highest five-year survival rates for breast cancer, at 83.9%, and prostate cancer, at 91.9%. Prostate cancer five-year survival rates in the UK were just 51.1%.

In Japan, men suffering from colon and rectal cancers showed survival rates of 63% and 58.2% respectively, five years after diagnosis.

In the UK, the survival rate for breast cancer was 69.7%, compared with just above 40% for colon and rectal cancer in both men and women.

Women with colon and rectal cancers fared best in France, where survival rates reached 60.1% and 63.9% respectively.

Differences in access to care and the ability of patients to navigate local health services in the United Kingdom resulted in large regional variations within the UK. On the whole, deprived areas had lower survival rates.

Racial differences were sharply highlighted in the United States. White Americans, who are on the whole more able to afford insurance, were up to 14% more likely than others to survive cancer.

The report covered patients diagnosed between 1990 and 1994. A UK Department of Health spokesman accepted the findings, but pointed out that cancer survival results in England had been steadily improving since.

But he said there was further work to do to reduce the gap between the UK and the rest of northern and western Europe and America.

An American man is four times more likely to survive prostate cancer than a man in Algeria, the only African country involved in the study. A Japanese man was six times more likely than an Algerian to survive colon cancer.

The top-performing nations were all spending at least 9-11% of gross domestic product on health. The United States spends more than 13%, while the UK spends just over 7% on health. Recent increases in the NHS budget are aimed at bringing it more in line with France and Germany. Algeria spends just 4% of its budget on health.


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