OECD Report Confirms Inequalities in Cancer

February 20, 2024

OECD, in cooperation with the European Commission, published the latest data on cancer in the EU27, Norway and Iceland (EU+2). The report addresses the latest trends in cancer incidence and mortality in the EU and reviews key cancer risk factors, cancer screening programmes and early diagnoses, as well as issues in the provision of high-quality cancer care. Country performance, cross-cutting challenges and new developments are examined with a particular focus on disparities by regions, socio-economic status and gender.

Although cancer mortality overall decreased by 10% between 2010-20, with decreases across most cancer sites, this was not the case for some of the digestive cancers, for instance, the pancreas.

Among 22 of the 29 EU+2 countries, a population-based colorectal cancer screening programme is in place, organised at the national or regional level, but only 7 countries align with the EU Council Recommendation to perform faecal immunochemical testing (FIT) for those aged 50-74. With the exception of Austria, which will target people aged 45-75 when the recent recommendations are implemented, EU+2 countries include narrower age ranges, such as 60-68 in Estonia, 59-69 in Ireland and 55-65 in Norway.

The report also brings to light the disparities in cancer screening uptake.

Of the 29 EU+2 countries, 13 have colorectal cancer screening rates of 30% or less. While in Finland, the participation rate was close to 80% of the eligible population, Cyprus, Hungary, and Romania had participation rates of about 3% in 2021 (or the latest year).

According to 2019 data from the European Health Interview Survey (EHIS), disparities in uptake of colorectal screening by sex among the population aged 50-74 are not large. For example, the average percentage of women (33.6%) and men (33%) reporting uptake of colorectal cancer screening within the past two years was similar. The highest gaps by sex were observed in Belgium (11%), Austria (10%), Germany (8%) and Romania (7%). In these countries, women reported screening more frequently than men. In some countries where the difference between men and women was not substantial, such as Finland (4.4%) and Poland (4.3%), men had a higher percentage of reported screening than women.

Aleksandra Kaczmarek
Aleksandra Kaczmarek

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