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Cancer Survival - A Spanish Study

August 2010 - Research from the Epidemiology Service of the Department of Health and Consumption in Murcia, published in the Annals of Oncology, assessed the probability of surviving nine types of cancer in eight Spanish regions with the highest numbers of cancer diagnoses (Basque Country, Navarra, Girona, Tarragona, Castellón, Albacete, Murcia and Granada).

Lead author, María Dolores Chirlaque explained:

"The innovative factor contributed by our work is its relevance to population and measurement of relative survival, which enables us to discover survival related to cancer in a more precise way."

Researchers evaluated all 57 622 cases of cancer of the breast, lung, colon, rectum, prostate, ovary and testicle, together with melanoma and Hodgkin's lymphoma diagnosed between 1995 and 1999. Subjects were monitored until December 2004.

The study found that Spanish survival figures are under 2 per cent less than the European average for the nine types of cancer studied. The highest survival rates for most types are recorded by Finland, Sweden, Norway and Iceland; the lowest by the Czech Republic, Poland and Slovenia.

Within Spain, researchers found the greatest regional differences in lung cancer (12.4 per cent in Navarra compared to 6.1 per cent in Granada) and the smallest in breast cancer (91.3 per cent in Castellón compared to 81.2 per cent in Albacete).

Other significant findings relate to prognosis:

  • Breast cancer, the most common type in women has high survival rates (83 per cent alive after five years).
  • Lung cancer is one of the most aggressive tumours, only 10 per cent of patients survive for more than five years.
  • Colorectal cancer, the most common type affecting both men and women, has an average survival rate of 50-55 per cent five years after diagnosis.
  • Prostate cancer, the most common tumour in men, has an increasingly favourable prognosis, with an overall survival rate of 76 per cent, higher in young adults.
  • Ovarian cancer has a very variable five-year survival rate depending on age at diagnosis (70 per cent of those aged 15-44 years compared to 19 per cent over 74 years).
  • Testicular cancer has the best prognosis, with a 95 per cent survival rate five years after diagnosis.
  • Skin melanoma has one of the highest survival rates (85 per cent) although the study acknowledges better results in other European countries (over 90 per cent).
  • Hodgkin's lymphoma also has a variable prognosis depending on age at diagnosis (92 per cent among young people, less than 50 per cent among older patients).

María Dolores Chirlaque commented:

"In the past cancer was considered to be fatal. However, nowadays it has come to be recognised as a curable illness. Testimony to this is the results shown in this study, which indicate that of every four people who suffer from it (with the exception of lung cancer), more than three overcome it."

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