Pancreatic Cancer Death Rate Rising In Europe

Projected European cancer mortality data highlight pancreatic cancer concerns

medwireNews: Pancreatic cancer rates are continuing to increase in Europe in both men and women, suggest study findings published in Annals of Oncology.

The study’s authors predict that 41,300 men and 41,000 women in the European Union (EU) will die from the disease in 2014. This reflects an increase in the age standardised rate since the period 2000–2004, from 7.9 to 8.0 deaths per 100,000 head of population in men, with a corresponding rise from 5.0 to 5.6 cases per 100,000 in women.

Although pancreatic cancer is associated with tobacco and alcohol use, obesity and familial risk, these factors are thought to explain less than 40% of cases.

"The increased death rate is cause for concern, because the prognosis for this tumour is bleak, with less than five percent of pancreatic cancer patients surviving for five years after diagnosis,” explained author Carlo La Vecchia, from the University of Milan in Italy, in a press release issued by the European Society for Medical Oncology (ESMO).

“As so few patients survive, the increase in deaths is very closely related to the increase in incidence of this disease”, he added. “This makes pancreatic cancer a priority for finding better ways to prevent and control it and better treatments.”

The study’s projected figures for 2014, devised from World Health Organization and Eurostat data, show an overall fall in EU cancer mortality since 2009, by 7% for men and 5% for women, giving respective age standardised rates of 138.1 and 84.7 deaths per 100,000 for all cancer types.

While the cancer mortality rate is 63% higher in men than women, the researchers note that the discrepancy is reducing, likely due to the history of tobacco use and the uptake of smoking in the 1960s and 1970s by women, they explain.

For example, there was a projected 8% decrease in lung cancer rates in men in 2014 but an 8% increase in women, meaning that lung cancer will become the leading fatal malignancy in women in the future.

The fall in the mortality rate for colorectal cancer and prostate cancer in men by 4% and 10%, respectively, since 2009, and corresponding 9% and 7% decreases in the rates of female breast and colorectal cancer, are attributed to screening programmes, early diagnosis and improvements in treatment.

Commenting in the ESMO press release, co-author Fabio Lebvi, from the University of Lausanne in Switzerland, emphasised: "Besides enforcing tobacco control – essentially by increasing taxation – national governments and EU policy makers must ensure that all EU citizens have access to the best screening, diagnosis and treatment.”


Malvezzi M, Bertuccio P, Levi F, et al. European cancer mortality predictions for the year 2014. Ann Oncol 2014; Advance online publication 23 April. doi: 10.1093/annonc/mdu138

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