On February 4th, World Cancer Day, the World Health Organization’s regional office for Europe launched the Pan-European movement against cancer “United Action Against Cancer.”

The plan aims to increase cooperation from grassroots to governments, using underutilized tools with the vision of eliminating cancer as a life-threatening disease in Europe.

The movement encompasses all of society and stresses the need for action by policy makers to close the gaps in prevention, treatment and care of cancer to ensure better health for citizens on the long-term.

Each day about 13,100 people in the European region are diagnosed with cancer and about 6000 lives are lost to the disease.

The WHO has a set of signature solutions – evidence-based, cost-effective policies and measures designed to achieve impact at the country level by offering guidance to policy-makers. These solutions cover the whole spectrum of cancer from prevention and early detection through to diagnosis, treatment and palliative care.

The WHO is developing more advanced and specific solutions for cervical, breast and childhood cancers, which will be released in the coming year.

Cancer prevention: The need to control industries producing harmful products

Alcohol and tobacco control play a key role in cancer prevention. As per the WHO, about 30% of cancers are caused by alcohol and tobacco products. For better health and well-being of all citizens policies to control these products must be prioritized.

Data from the the WHO European Office for the Prevention and Control of Noncommunicable Diseases found, in 2018 alone, alcohol products caused around 180,000 cases of cancer and 92,000 cancer deaths in the region.

While there is increased awareness about tobacco and cancer risk, awareness of alcohol and cancer risk is low in communities. Governments have achieved significant progress on tobacco control with the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC). Such a binding treaty at the international level is yet to be adopted for alcohol control.

The WHO has evidence-based, cost-effective policy measures such as the best buys to tackle harmful products such as alcohol. They emphasize increasing taxes and prices for harmful products, enforcing marketing restrictions, and limiting their physical availability.

Prevention of cancer as well as early detection, diagnosis and treatment are all areas of cancer survival currently impacted by inequality. For example, the risk of developing cancer is three times higher in northern Europe than central Asia, yet chances of a cure are 2.5 times higher by comparison. Similarly, harm caused by products of the alcohol industry are higher in lower-middle income countries compared to high income countries, despite use of the products being lower in LMICs.


WHO Europe: “United Action Against Cancer, a pan-European movement from grassroots to government

WHO Europe: “WHO/Europe launches ambitious initiative seeking to reduce lives lost to cancer

WHO Europe: “World Cancer Day: know the facts – tobacco and alcohol both cause cancer