Scientists from the University of Milan estimate that more than 1.2 million people in the EU will die from cancer this year. For Germany, the researchers assume more than 240,000 deaths. But there is also good news.
The risk of dying from cancer has continued to fall in the EU and UK in recent years. Scientists report this in the journal "Annals of Oncology", taking into account the age structure of the population. However, the physicians are concerned about the increasing number of lung cancer and pancreatic cancer deaths in women.
Overall, the researchers, led by Carlo La Vecchia from the University of Milan, estimate that around 1,262,000 people in the EU and a further 172,000 people in the UK are expected to die of cancer in 2023. In absolute numbers, that is more than 53,000 more cancer deaths than in 2018. However, this is due to the aging population, in which the risk of cancer is generally higher. Adjusted for age, the number of cancer deaths between 2018 and 2023 will fall by almost 6.5 percent in men and by a good 3.7 percent in women.
For Germany, experts predict that a good 131,000 men and almost 110,000 women will probably die of cancer in 2023. Men primarily from lung (26,000) and prostate cancer (17,000), women from breast (18,000) and lung cancer (18,000). Adjusted for age, this corresponds to a decline of around ten percent for both sexes in Germany. As the scientists point out, their estimates do not yet take into account the impact of the COVID pandemic, which erupted after the time data on cancer deaths became available.
They write: "The COVID-19 pandemic could impact cancer mortality in 2023 by delaying physician visits and treatment and affecting secondary prevention, treatment and disease management in cancer." Irrespective of this, the study predicts particularly significant declines in deaths from leukemia and stomach cancer across Europe. Experts attribute the latter to improved methods of food preservation, healthier diets and a reduction in Helicobacter pylori infections. Age-standardized death rates for all types of cancer would also decrease for men across the EU.
It is different for women: the scientists assume that the age-adjusted number of deaths from lung cancer will increase by a little more than one percent and from pancreatic cancer by 3.4 percent. About a quarter to a third of the latter deaths are due to smoking, according to La Vecchia. Its international team has been publishing regular studies with projections of cancer mortality in the EU and Great Britain since 2011, based on data from the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Statistical Office of the European Union.
According to research group leader La Vecchia, a further reduction in the EU-wide cancer death rate of 35 percent could be achieved by 2035 if the current trend continues - under two conditions: On the one hand, more people and especially more women should be discouraged from tobacco consumption. Among other things, the authors of the study mention rising cigarette prices as a control strategy.
Second, greater efforts are needed to tackle the growing epidemic of overweight, obesity and diabetes, alcohol use and infections in both men and women, along with improvements in prevention, early detection and treatment. In fact, it has now been confirmed that there is a connection between obesity and various types of cancer, including esophageal, colon and rectum and kidney cancer.
(This article was first published on Monday, March 06, 2023.)