Survival time for common cancers shorter in Ireland compared to European average

Bulgaria, Slovakia and Poland had some of the poorest survival rates for certain cancers


People in the Republic diagnosed with some common cancers have a shorter survival time compared with the European average, research published this morning has found.

The five-year survival following diagnosis for cancer of the colon is 52 per cent compared with a 57 per cent average across 29 European countries, the latest Eurocare report shows.

Survival times for cancers of the kidney and ovary are also shorter for people living in the UK and Ireland.

However survival for other cancers such as tumours in the rectum, prostate and breast as well as melanoma skin cancers are higher than the European average.

The results, published today in the medical journal Lancet Oncology are based on data from national cancer registries.

Researchers compared five-year survival from diagnosis for more than 9 million adults and over 60,000 children diagnosed with cancer between 2000 and 2007.

Eastern European countries such as Bulgaria, Slovakia and Poland had some of the poorest survival rates for certain cancers usually associated with a good prognosis.

But the gulf in survival between east and west is closing, with evidence that some eastern European countries with previously poorer survival are catching up. However an accompanying editorial warns that more detailed information is required to allow for a better interpretation of Eurocare data. “Registries should record more sociodemographic information and more details about investigation, staging, treatment, recurrences, and second-line treatment,” it says.

The study authors acknowledge that interpreting cancer survival differences is complex. “Longer survival may be due to better treatments or to earlier diagnosis that improves the efficacy of existing treatments. However other factors such as tumour biology, lifestyle, presence of other concomitant diseases . . . can directly or indirectly influence survival,” they note.

Director of the National Cancer Control Programme, Dr Susan O’Reilly said cancer diagnosis and treatment in Ireland had undergone major changes in recent decades, most notably with the introduction of the National Cancer Control Programme in 2007. As a result, she said, she would expect to see favourable changes in cancer survival rates over the coming five to 10 years.