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Cancer Survival Ranked

When it comes to the chance of surviving cancer in Europe, France and Austria are the best places to be, according to new research that tracks cancer survival patterns across the region.

The analysis, which was to be presented yesterday at the close of a European Cancer Conference in Copenhagen, Denmark, involved statistics on 42 types of cancer in 1.8 million adults and 24,000 children from 22 countries in Europe.

The largest international cancer survival study to date, it found that the chances of surviving for at least five years after being diagnosed with cancer ranged from 25.2 percent for men in Poland to 57.9 percent for women in France. Regionally, Scandinavia came out best and Eastern Europe worst.

That compares with a survival rate of 62 percent for men and 63.5 percent for women in the United States. Comparable statistics for other areas of the world are not immediately available.

Michel coleman, one of the study's leaders, said the main conclusion of the survey is that although cancer survival is improving across Europe, differences between Eastern and Western Europe are widening. The pattern also differs depending on the type of cancer.

Coleman, a professor of epidemiology and vital statistics at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said the EUROCARE study findings cannot be interpreted simply as a league table of the relative competencies of national health care systems because several other factors, including how soon patients go to their doctors in the first place, determine the likelihood of surviving cancer.

However, Kathy Redmond, a patients' advocate based in Milan, Italy, said the survey is likely to influence national health policies.

Earlier versions prompted Britain, which ranks lower than other countries in Western and Southern Europe but just above those in Eastern Europe, to greatly increase its investment in cancer services, Redmond said.

"It was the embarrass-ment. EUROCARE named and shamed governments to start to do something to change the status quo," said Redmond, who was not involved with the research. Dr Peter Boyle, director of the European Oncology Institute in Milan and incoming chief of the UN's International Agency for Research on Cancer, said the study does not pay enough attention to difference between countries in how severe the tumors are when they are diagnosed.

European cancer registries generally do not collect information on severity of the disease at diagnosis.

(Agencies via Xinhua September 26, 2003)

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