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Europe is characterized by striking geographical differences in cancer occurrence. There were an estimated 3.5 million new cancer cases and 1.9 million cancer deaths in Europe in 2012. Cancers of the female breast, colorectum, prostate and lung constitute over half of the overall incidence, while lung and colorectal cancer rank as the most common causes of cancer death.

Europe is characterized by striking geographical differences in cancer occurrence.

In men, prostate cancer is the most frequent form of cancer incidence in most Northern, Western and Southern European countries, while lung cancer is the most frequently diagnosed cancer in Central and Eastern Europe. Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death among men in almost all European countries, while breast cancer dominates as the most frequent in women. Lung cancer is also a leading cause of cancer death in certain European countries among women, overtaking breast cancer.

The variations in overall incidence rates across countries are three- to four-fold in men, and even greater in women. Current incidence and trends over 50 years reflect the different stages of the tobacco epidemic in different countries in men and women. In most European countries, lung cancer rates in men tend to have reached stability or are decreasing, while in women, they appear to be still increasing.

While breast cancer incidence rates continued to increase in most European countries, mortality rates decreased, as a result of earlier diagnosis and improved therapies. This effect is magnified among women of 50 years of age or older, the usual target of population-based screening programs in Europe.

Lung cancer incidence rates vary greatly between European countries, in both men and women.

Estimated age-standardized lung cancer incidence rate (world) of lung cancer in Europe by sex, per 100,000, 2012

Download High Res Text alternative: Estimated age-standardized lung cancer incidence rate of lung cancer in Europe by sex, per 100,000, 2012
Chart showing estimated age-standardized lung cancer incidence rate of lung cancer in Europe by sex, per 100,000, in 2012 which indicates that lung cancer incidence rates vary greatly between European countries, in both men and women

“Cancer continues to present a huge challenge for patients, and their families, for health policy and for health services, across the European Union, and indeed beyond."

Tonio Borg, European Commissioner for Health.