Early diagnosis, better treatment and prevention have brought down the mortality rate of some types of cancer. As people live longer, however, there are more diagnoses of cancer.
A new government-sponsored cancer report delivered mixed findings for Germany on Tuesday: The number of cancer cases has almost doubled compared to three or four decades ago and in total, more people die from the disease. However, an increasing proportion of patients are able to survive cancer, while the report pointed to increasing life expectancy as an explanation for the higher number of cases.
"The survival rate of cancer in Germany is one of the highest in Europe," Health Minister Hermann Gröhe said when presenting the report in Berlin on Tuesday.
Around 482,500 people were diagnosed with cancer and around 223,000 died in 2013, according to the "Report on Cancer Occurrence in Germany" published for the first time by the Health Ministry and Robert-Koch-Institute.
One factor behind the rising absolute number is that people are living longer. The chances of developing many types of cancer increases with age: the average of age of first diagnoses is 74, some four years later more than nearly three decades ago.
When longer life spans and age are factored out of the statistics there has been a real-terms decrease in many types of cancer. For example, as a result of declining smoking rates among males, the number of lung cancer cases has dropped by a quarter since 1970.
At the same time, both the number and rate of people surviving cancer has increased over the years. Since the early 1990s, mortality from cancer has dropped between 15 and 20 percent for females and between 20 and 30 percent for males.
There are now some 4 million people in Germany who at some point in their life had cancer.
Health experts attribute this trend to early diagnosis and better treatment and prevention.
While better treatment or early detection have knocked down the mortality rate from some types of cancer, others like pancreatic and liver cancer remain extremely deadly. Breast cancer screening, the report said, has had "a positive effect" in reducing mortality.
Many types of cancer are preventable. Worldwide about 30 percent of cancers are preventable. In Germany, one-fifth of all cancer diagnoses are attributable to smoking and alcohol consumption. Other factors that increase the risk of cancer are obesity, eating too much meat and not enough fruits and vegetables and insufficient exercise, according to the report.
After heart disease, cancer is the second most common cause of death in Germany.
cw/msh (AFP, dpa, epd)