WHO/Europe assists countries in the WHO European Region to develop national programmes for cancer control. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) is the WHO body that specializes in this field. It coordinates and conducts research on causes and develops scientific strategies for cancer prevention and control.

Cancer causes 20% of deaths in the European Region. With more than 3 million new cases and 1.7 million deaths each year, cancer is the most important cause of death and morbidity in Europe after cardiovascular diseases.

Cancer is in many cases avoidable, and early detection increases the chance of cure substantially. Enough is already known about the causes to prevent at least one third of all cancers, and some of the most common types – including breast, colorectal and cervical cancer – can be cured if detected early.

Globally, more than 70% of all cancer deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries, which have few or no resources for the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cancer. Regardless of resource level, all countries can implement the four basic components of cancer control – prevention, early detection, diagnosis and treatment, and palliative care – and thus avoid and cure many cancers, as well as palliating suffering.