Deaths rates from cancer have fallen over the past five years in the European Union although the disease is this year expected to claim the lives of over 1.4 million people across the bloc, a study finds.
According to research published Tuesday in the Annals of Oncology, cancer death rates for men have dropped around 6% since 2014 to 139 deaths per 100,000 males, while women's rates have decreased from 86 deaths per 100,000 to 83 — a 3.6% decline.
Researchers attribute the improvement to more effective screening as well as early diagnosis and treatment.
However, the total number of deaths is expected to rise 5% from 2014 to 1.4 million this year due to the European population ageing and increasing in size, the study notes. Of these some 787,000 will be men and 621, 900 women.
The study shows that breast cancer is no longer the deadliest for women. Instead, lung cancer has been found to be the most dangerous form of the disease for both sexes with nearly 185,000 men and 97,000 women expected to die from it this year.
Researchers explain that the rising number of female deaths from lung cancer is due to different changes in smoking patterns over generations with smoking becoming frequent in women in the 1970s.
Lung cancer is followed by colorectal and prostate cancer for men and breast and colorectal cancer for women.
Breast cancer on the decline
The breast cancer mortality rate has dropped by nearly 12% across the EU over the past decade, the study notes, with 13.36 women per 100,000 expected to succumb from the disease in 2019, down from 16.44 women per 100,000 in the 2005-2009 period.
"Due to the ageing of the population, however, there was no fall in the absolute number of deaths. Thus the medical and public health burden of breast cancer in Europe is not due to decrease," it explains.
Researchers found that six of the biggest countries in the bloc now have averages hovering between the 13-14 deaths per 100,000 women, but Poland was the outlier with the death rate actually increasing by 6.1%.
Britain, meanwhile, registered the fastest fall with its death rate dropping 17.7% over the past decade, while Spain remained the top nation with mortality rate for breast cancer expected to reach 10.4 per 100,000 women this year.