Breast cancer patients receive better care in Sweden than Norway and Denmark, the study published on Wednesday and funded by the Department of Health, England and Cancer Research UK showed.
Data from population-based cancer registries in 12 jurisdictions in six countries were provided for 2.4 million adults diagnosed with primary colorectal, lung, women’s breast, or ovarian cancer from 1995 to 2007, with follow-up to December 31st, 2007.
Researchers also examined incidence and mortality trends from 1985 to 2005. The research showed that relative survival improved overall for all four types of cancers.
“Survival was persistently higher in Australia, Canada, and Sweden, intermediate in Norway and lower in Denmark, England, Northern Ireland and Wales, particularly in the first year after diagnosis and for patients aged 65 years and older,” wrote Professor Michel Coleman of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine.
International differences narrowed at all ages for breast cancer from about 9 percent to 5 percent at one year and about 14 percent to 8 percent at five years, but less or not at all for the other cancers.
For colorectal cancer, the international range narrowed only for patients 65 and older by 2 to 6 percent at one year and by 2 to 3 percent at five years.
The study was the first in a programme investigating international survival disparities, with the aim of informing health policy to raise standards and reduce inequalities in survival.
“Cancer survival is a key measure of the effectiveness of health care systems. Persistent regional and international differences in survival represent many avoidable deaths. Differences in survival have prompted or guided cancer control strategies,” wrote Coleman.
Up-to-date survival trends show increases but persistent differences between countries. Trends in cancer incidence and mortality are broadly consistent with survival trends, while data quality and changes in classification are unlikely explanations, the researchers wrote.
The patterns are consistent with later diagnosis or differences in treatment, particularly in Denmark and the UK, and in patients aged 65 and older.