Early detection of common cancers

iStockphoto/Gerda Smets

Cancers of the breast, cervix uteri, and colon and rectum are among the most prevalent types in the WHO European Region. Together, they claim an estimated 390 000 lives every year across the Region. Although these three cancer types cause a declining number of deaths, they could be more effectively controlled through programmes for coordinated, population-based primary prevention, early detection and follow-up.

WHO/Europe plans to publish information on evidence-based policy options for the early detection of breast, cervical and colorectal cancer in 2012.

Trends and projections

On average, deaths from cancer have fallen throughout the WHO European Region: from 196 per 100 000 population in 1990 to 169 per 100 000 in 2009, a drop of 13.8%.

The incidence of cancer, however, particularly among older people, is set to rise. In 2008, for example, the estimated number of new cancer cases (excluding non-melanoma skin cancer) was 3.4 million in the WHO European Region, with 58% of cases in people aged 65 and over. In 2030, the number of new cancer cases is projected to be 4.1 million, with 65% in older people.

Focusing on early detection is therefore vital. It is a priority intervention in the Action Plan for Implementation of the European Strategy for the Prevention and Control of Noncommunicable Diseases 2012–2016, agreed by European Member States in September 2011.