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Science

Scientists predict European cancer death rates to fall

Swiss and Italian health experts estimate that 1.3 million Europeans will die from cancer in 2011. While the figure represents an overall decrease, the researchers warn that cancer rates are not equal across Europe.

Cancer cells

The study looked at cancer data from across the EU

Nearly 1.3 million Europeans will succumb to some form of cancer in 2011, according to research conducted by Swiss and Italian researchers and published Wednesday in the journal Annals of Oncology.

The figure represents an overall decrease in cancer rates of 7 percent for men and 6 percent for women over the last four years. Stomach, colon, breast, womb, prostate and male lung cancers should continue declining, the researchers wrote.

The analysis used predictive models based on individual cancer rates from France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Spain and the United Kingdom as well as cancer rates for the European Union as a whole.

Scientists cautioned that while overall fatalities from cancer are falling, they don't tell the whole story as the European population grows and grays.

"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," said Dr. Carlo La Vecchia, a professor of medicine at the University of Milan in Italy, who led the research.

Close up of a hand holding a cigarette

With the exception of the UK, lung cancer is on the rise in Europe

He also cautioned that the risk of cancer was not equally spread across the EU's 27 member states.

"There is a persisting gap in cancer mortality between central and eastern European countries compared to western Europe, and this is likely to persist for the foreseeable future," he said in a statement.

Lung cancer still a concern

In addition to looking at overall cancer rates, the study also examined several cases of specific types of cancer within certain groups. For example, the research found that the number of women suffering from lung cancer is steadily on the rise across the EU, with the exception of the UK, which historically has had relatively high rates of female lung cancer.

Across the EU, the rates of lung cancer in women have gone up since 2007 from 12.55 per 100,000 people to 13.12 by this year.

Lung cancer is also of deep concern in Poland, where the disease has overtaken breast cancer as the first cause of cancer death in women, which represents an increase in the death rate by lung cancer from 15.53 per 100,000 women to 16.60 in 2011.

The research was funded by the Swiss Cancer League and the Italian Association for Cancer Research.

Author: Cyrus Farivar

Editor: Sean Sinico

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