On February 4, 2020, on World Cancer Day, the European Commission launched an EU-wide public consultation for the “Beating Cancer Plan.”
The consultation will help shape the Plan, identify key areas, and explore future action. But one glaring omission from the discussion thus far is cause for concern.
According to the European Commission, Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan, which will be presented before the end of this year, will propose actions at every key stage of the disease:
- Prevention measures: Prevention is the easiest and most effective way of reducing cancer in the EU. Measures on prevention could include improved access to healthy diets and vaccination coverage; measures to reduce environmental risk factors such as pollution and exposure to chemicals; research and awareness raising.
- Early detection and diagnosis: Measures to improve the chance of a better health outcome through early diagnosis could include increasing the coverage of the target population for cancer screening; increased use of digital solutions and technical support to Member States.
- Treatment and care: Measures to improving outcomes of cancer care and treatment could include improving the access to high-quality treatment and uptake of new therapies; measures to ensure the availability and affordability of essential medicines; innovation and research.
- Quality of life: Measures to ensure the best possible quality of life for cancer patients, survivors and carers could include measures to improve professional re-integration; prevent discrimination; the provision of palliative care and transfers of best practice.
Reason for concern
A reason for concern is, however, that so far the European Commission has not identified alcohol prevention and control as a key tool for cancer prevention; furthermore the European Commission has not yet clearly identified alcohol’s cancer risk and the alcohol-fuelled cancer burden in Europe.
But alcohol is a major risk factor for cancer deaths in Europe.
The death rate from alcohol-related cancers is astonishingly high. According to WHO’s 2018 Global Alcohol Status Report, this is the alcohol-related cancer mortality in the nine countries with the biggest burden:
- China: 78.052 cancer deaths due to alcohol (population of 1.4 billion),
- India: 30.958 (population of 1.3 billion),
- USA: 30.859 (population of 327 million),
- Russia: 28.702 (population of 144 million),
- Japan: 20.124 (population of 126 million),
- Germany: 14.696 (population of 82 million),
- Brazil: 13.332 (population of 209 million),
- France: 10.982 (population of 67 million),
- UK: 10.412 (population of 66 million).
Apparently, three of the nine countries with the biggest alcohol-related cancer burden are EU member states (with the UK just having left the EU).
For women globally, alcohol is actually the single biggest risk factor for breast cancer – both in terms of health burden and mortality.
The Global Burden of Disease study shows that alcohol causes ca. 650.000 cancer deaths per year, globally. But reducing total alcohol consumption by 10% would lead to a 9% reduction in alcohol-related cancer deaths. That means ca. 57.000 fewer deaths.
That clearly means that alcohol policy solutions are real catalysts for cancer prevention – something the European Commission still has to embrace.
Why is the plan needed?
The cancer burden is high in the European Union. In the EU:
- An estimated 40% citizens will face cancer at some stage in their lives.
- Cancer is the 2nd leading cause of of death, with 1.3 million deaths and 3.5 million new cases per year.
- Every 9 seconds a new cancer case is diagnosed.
- Without further action, estimates suggest, by 2035, cancer cases in the EU could have doubled in number, making the disease the leading cause of death in middle age before cardiovascular diseases.
- The economic impact of cancer in Europe is estimated to exceed €100 billion annually.
- Substantial inequalities exist both within and between EU countries relating to cancer incidences, diagnosis, treatment, expertise and research.
These are some of the reasons leading to Commission President von der Leyen, through her mission letter, mandating Health Commissioner Kyriakides − in charge of Health and Food Safety − to put forward Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan to support Member States to improve cancer prevention and care.
What will the plan achieve?
Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan − to be presented before the end of the year − will set out actions to support, coordinate or supplement EU member state’s efforts in all key stages of the disease, from: prevention, early diagnosis and screening, to treatment and care, the quality of life of patients, survivors and caregivers. It will include a combination of legislative and non-legislative measures.
The research mission on cancer in the Horizon Europe programme, will provide evidence-based knowledge to target specific action from cancer prevention to social integration.
The European Commission will seek input from Member States, the research community, healthcare professionals, policy-makers, NGOs and patients, as well as businesses and industry, including SMEs, and other stakeholders including key international organisations.
We want to listen to anyone who has a story to tell.
The doctors and the patients.
The researchers and the relatives.
The nurses and the NGOs.
Those who made it, and those who are still fighting.
− Speech by President @vonderleyen ⬇️#EUCancerPlan #WorldCancerDay pic.twitter.com/hSt7AseRGB
— European Commission 🇪🇺 (@EU_Commission) February 4, 2020
The Cancer Plan will follow a “health in all policies” approach and be closely linked to other priorities of the Commission.
As a first step, the Commission is launching two consultations.
- The first consultation will gather views on the outline of the Cancer Plan. This first consultation will run for 12 weeks.
- The second consultation focuses on the Commission’s Roadmap for the Cancer Plan. In this document, the Commission outlines the context, scope and aim of the initiative and the added value of EU action. This consultation will be open for 4 weeks.
Today, on World Cancer Day, we begin a common path that will lead to Europe’s Beating Cancer Action Plan.
Together we can make a difference: with prevention and research, with a new data strategy and equality in treatment across Europe,” said Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, as per, European Commission News.
For further reading
Alcohol and cancer facts
3 Reasons Why The Alcohol-Cancer Link Is A Social Justice Issue
European Commission: “Questions & Answers: Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan: Let’s strive for more“
European Commission: “European Commission launches EU-wide public consultation on Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan“