Following the publication of the new European Cancer Manifesto, EU lawmakers and stakeholders have highlighted the importance of improving prevention and screening policies across Europe.
The fight against cancer has been one of the main political priorities in recent years, with initiatives such as BECA report of the European Parliament and the European Commission Plan to beat cancer putting it at the top of the agenda.
“Sometimes when I speak, I realize that what I say may sound too enthusiastic, too ambitious, too optimistic, but we have to set the bar high when we try to change the realities of cancer,” said the Commissioner. health, Stella Kyriakides. during the European Cancer Summit (November 15-16).
One of the main areas of discussion now focuses on prevention and screening, as the European plan to combat cancer says: “Prevention is more effective than any remedy. »
The European Cancer Organization (ECO) also highlighted this in its recently published report “It’s time to accelerate: together against cancer” manifesto which sets out recommendations for the future of European cancer policy within the framework of the next mandate of the European Commission from 2024-2029.
According to Joint Research Center of the European Commissionin 2020, 2.7 million people in the EU were diagnosed with cancer, and 1.3 million died from it. More than 40% of cancer cases in Europe are preventable and mortality can also be reduced through earlier diagnosis and the provision of faster, more effective treatments.
Focus on prevention
Currently, EU efforts focus on regulating cancer risk factors. “The main risk factors are well known, but most still lack an appropriate policy response,” reads the manifesto of the European Cancer Organization.
Hoping to change this situation, the European Parliament is preparing a report on non-communicable diseases (NCDs) focusing on the main risk factors associated with cancer: tobacco and alcohol consumption, unhealthy diet, environmental effects and lack of health. ‘physical activity.
The inclusion of alcohol is the most sensitive topic in discussions among European lawmakers. While they all agree that this should be part of the report, the debate is over what language should be used, questioning whether a certain threshold of alcohol consumption should be called “harmful.”
“I think it’s because the dynamics of the elections are raising the temperature in Parliament and prevention has become a battleground between political groups,” said Sara Cerdas, a Portuguese socialist MEP.
At the summit, ECO highlighted that according to the World Health Organization (WHO), “there is no safe amount of alcohol consumption.”
According to the WHO, half of alcohol-related cancers in the EU region are caused by light or moderate alcohol consumption, i.e. less than 1.5 liters of wine or less than 3.5 liters of beer per week.
“Listen to the science. Let science guide policy, especially in the field of health,” stressed Italian socialist MEP Alessandra Moretti.
She explained how the ban on smoking in public spaces came years after health professionals warned of its dangers. “We could have saved so many lives if only we, as politicians, had acted sooner and by listening to the scientific community,” she added.
Regarding alcohol consumption, the CEO supports the position of the European Cancer Plan to present legal proposals regarding mandatory labeling of ingredients and nutritional information as well as health warnings on alcoholic drinks .
However, ECO warns of strong industry lobbying against these measures, which Cerdas also mentioned at the summit.
“Industry interference in the dissemination of health misinformation that flies in the face of the best available evidence is particularly concerning and this is now reflected in the Public Health Subcommittee’s report (on MNT),” she said.
Screening in Europe
Another part of the EU’s cancer plan is to implement screening policies in Europe that ensure equality between member states.
“We are seeing for the first time that new testing recommendations are being implemented across the EU, with ambitious testing targets to improve early detection,” said Commissioner Kyriakides.
The Commission’s cancer plan announced support for Member States to ensure that 90% of the EU population eligible for breast, cervical and colorectal cancer screening are offered screening by 2025.
Kyriakides also celebrated the update However, after 19 years of the current testing guidelines being implemented by the European Council, she acknowledged that “we have them now, but there is still a lot to do.”
Previous recommendations, dating from 2003, were limited only to breast, cervical and colorectal cancer, while the current recommendation broadens the scope to also include lung, prostate and stomach cancer.
According to data According to the European Commission, in 2021, the number of women who underwent mammography for breast cancer screening ranged from 83% in Denmark and 82% in Finland to 20.6% in Bulgaria and 24.6% in Cyprus.
The same differences can be observed for cervical cancer screening, where it varies from 78.5% in Sweden to 3.9% in Romania.
Despite the EU’s efforts to implement a broader testing strategy and tackle inequalities, the situation in Europe can still improve.
Kyriakides also announced that “because accountability is important”, the Commission will propose a study in 2024 to assess the real impact of the cancer plan.
“It is not enough to assume that the project is progressing and being implemented,” she added.
(Edited by Giedrė Peseckytė/Nathalie Weatherald)