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Brussels, 25 May 2011

European Week Against Cancer: A joint commitment to prevent cancer

Every year nearly 2.5 million EU citizens are diagnosed with cancer, which is also the second most common cause of death in Europe (29% of deaths for men, 23% for women). This figure is expected to rise due to the ageing European population. However, it is estimated that around one third of cancers could be prevented if people made healthier choices (or if people adopted healthier living habits). This year's European Week Against Cancer, which has been re-launched under the leadership of the Association of European Cancer Leagues as one of the activities of the European Partnership for Action Against Cancer, will focus on healthy living. As a keynote speaker at the launch event in Brussels today, John Dalli, European Commissioner for Health & Consumer Policy, will encourage participants to promote cancer prevention through their organisations and institutions at national, regional and local levels.

Commissioner Dalli said: "My message at the occasion of this year's European Week Against Cancer is simple: people can take steps to improve their health and avoid certain cancers, by making healthier choices. While public authorities cannot force people to change their behaviour, I believe that we have a duty to arm our citizens with the information they need to take control of their health". To conclude: "I am committed to supporting Member States and stakeholders in their joint partnership efforts to prevent and control cancer in every way I can".

For nearly a quarter of a century, the Commission has been working to identify and promote good practice in cancer-related prevention, diagnosis, treatment and care. By working together with the Member States, sharing knowledge, capacity and expertise in cancer prevention and control, more can be done to effectively tackle and combat cancer across the Union.

The EU's policies include:


At European level, considerable resources have been allocated to promoting healthier lifestyles and better overall health of EU citizens, by addressing key risk factors such as excessive alcohol consumption, poor nutrition, physical inactivity and tobacco use. The 2006 EU Alcohol Strategy and 2007 Strategy for Europe on Nutrition, Overweight and Obesity-related health issues aim to set out an integrated approach with Member States and different stakeholders, including NGOs and industry, to reducing ill health due to these factors. On tobacco, the EU approach includes legislation (on advertising and tobacco products), supporting the Member States in areas including prevention, cessation and smoke-free environments and financing an EU-wide awareness-raising campaign.

The new EU campaign "Ex-Smokers are Unstoppable" will be launched in the coming weeks. In addition, the Commission is currently working on plans to put forward a proposal for the revision of the 2001 Tobacco Products Directive in 2012. Following an analysis of a consultation launched last year and the preparation of an impact assessment, the Directive could be strengthened and adapted to reflect international commitments, developments in tobacco products as well as advances in science.


The latest initiative of the Commission in the field of cancer is the European Partnership for Action Against Cancer (EPAAC) launched in September 2009. The Partnership brings efforts of different stakeholders together into a joint response to prevent and control cancer and aims to support Member States in tackling cancer more efficiently. By the end of the Partnership, all Member States should have integrated cancer plans. This should contribute to achieving the long-term aim which is to reduce the incidence of cancer by 15% by 2020.

The first Open Forum of the EPAAC will be held on 14-15 June 2011 in Spain and will focus on cancer healthcare and research.


In December 2003, EU Health Ministers unanimously adopted a Council Recommendation on cancer screening which sets out principles of best practice in the early detection of cancer. Member States are invited to implement nationwide population-based screening programmes for breast, cervical and colorectal cancer, with appropriate quality assurance. European Guidelines on breast, cervical and colorectal cancer screening were last published in 2006, 2008 and 2011 respectively. They were published by the European Commission as benchmarks to assist the Member States to carry out screening in the most effective way possible.


EU financial support for cancer research since 2003 amounts to close to €1 billion, funding 183 projects. This support has created the necessary collaboration between cancer centres, researchers and patient advocacy groups in different countries to improve the way in which cancers are tackled, help make the best treatments available to everyone and reach more patients. Significant efforts are being made on breast cancer and rare cancers, melanoma, leukemia and cancer imaging. Cancer in women and children receives special attention. For example, for the first time in Europe, a project (PanCareSurFup- will focus on the long-term side effects of treatment in childhood cancer survivors.

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