Overall EU cancer, leukaemia mortality rates to fall in 2016

By Shreeya Nanda, Senior medwireNews Reporter

Total cancer-related mortality rates for men and women in the European Union (EU) will decline in 2016, say researchers who predict falls in death rates from most neoplasms, including leukaemia.

However, despite the generally favourable outlook, an increase in mortality attributable to lung and pancreatic cancer in women can be expected, they add.

Using World Health Organization death certification data and population data from Eurostat, Carlo La Vecchia (Universitá degli Studi di Milano, Italy) and colleagues estimate a total of 1,359,500 deaths from cancer, a 3.3% increase since 2011.

But the predicted age-standardised cancer mortality rates by gender are 133.5 per 100,000 men and 85.2 per 100,000 women in the EU, which correspond to decreases of 7.7% and 3.3% compared with 2011. And thus, the authors anticipate a favourable outlook overall in spite of the increase in the absolute number of cancer deaths, which they attribute to the ageing European population.

In both men and women, lung cancer is the malignancy with the highest age-standardised cancer mortality rate (per 100,000), but while in men the rate will decrease from 38.07 in 2011 to 34.01 in 2016, women will experience a rise from 13.61 to 14.35.

The rate of pancreatic cancer-related mortality, which the investigators note is “the tumour with the least favourable outlook” in both genders, is estimated to remain stable in men (7.93 in 2011 and 7.88 in 2016), but to increase in women (5.39 in 2011 and 5.60 in 2016).

For all other cancers included in the analysis, mortality rates are projected to fall in 2016 – for instance, stomach cancer mortality is projected to decline relative to 2011, from 7.06 to 5.98 in men and 3.31 to 2.76 in women. And similar favourable trends are expected for neoplasms of the colon and rectum, prostate, breast and uterus (including the cervix and corpus).

This also holds true for leukaemia in 2016 – the predicted age-standardised mortality rates range from 3.56 for Spain to 4.53 for Poland in men, and from 2.12 for the UK to 2.78 for Italy in women. These correspond to decreases of 9–21% in both men and women relative to 2007.

The decreases in leukaemia-related mortality are expected across all age groups, but with appreciably larger declines in younger age groups – for instance, in males aged 0–14 years, death rates will fall by 38%, compared with a decrease of 19% for men in the 45–69 age group.

“Therapeutic advancements are the main drivers of these trends; these include better diagnosis, multidrug chemotherapy and immunotherapy protocols assisted by toxicity limiting therapies and improved radiotherapy”, the team writes in the Annals of Oncology.

Lead author Carlo La Vecchia said in a press release: “Predictions of death rates from leukaemia are complicated by the fact that leukaemias are a varied collection of blood cancers, with some being more treatable than others.

“However, the important falls in overall death rates from this group of diseases are very encouraging and are a testament to the hard work of researchers and clinicians in developing and implementing better diagnosis and treatments.”

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