In the European Union, cancer was the cause of death for almost 1.3 million persons in 2013, responsible for just over a quarter (26%) of all deaths. Men (726 500 deaths due to cancer) were more affected than women (570 300). In addition, fatal cancer represented more than a third (37%) of all deaths for the EU population aged less than 65, while this level was below a quarter (23%) for the older population (those aged 65 years and over).
Leading to the death of nearly 270 000 persons (or 21% of all deaths due to cancer), lung cancer was the main type of fatal cancer in the EU in 2013, followed by colorectal cancer (153 100 or 12%), breast cancer (92 600 or 16% for the female population only), pancreas cancer (81 300 or 6%) and prostate cancer (72 700 or 10% of all fatal cancers for the male population only). This information is published by Eurostat, the statistical office of the European Union, on the occasion of the World Cancer Day, taking place each year on 4 February.
Highest share of deaths due to cancer in Slovenia and the Netherlands
Among the total population, cancer was in 2013 the cause of at least 30% of deaths in Slovenia (32%), the Netherlands (31% in 2012) and Ireland (30%), while it represented less than a fifth of all causes of death in Bulgaria (17%) and Lithuania (19%). In every EU Member State, fatal cancers killed more men than women, with the highest gender gaps being observed in Greece and Spain (in these two Member States, men accounted for 61% of all fatal cancer in 2013), followed by Bulgaria and Portugal.
Lung cancer killed more than 185 000 men in the EU in 2013
In all Member States, the most prevalent cancer leading to death in 2013 was lung cancer. The highest proportion of lung cancer among all deaths due to cancer were recorded in Hungary (26%), followed by Belgium, Denmark, Greece, the Netherlands (in 2012) and Poland (all 24%), and the lowest in Portugal (15%) and Sweden (16%). In almost every Member State, lung cancer affected even more men than women: at EU level, lung cancer accounted for 26% of all male fatal cancer (185 600 deaths), compared with 15% for female (83 500 deaths).
Regarding colorectal cancer, the highest proportions of deaths due to this type of cancer among all fatal cancer were registered in Hungary and Slovakia (both 16%), Spain, Croatia and Portugal (all 15%). On the opposite end of the scale, colorectal cancer represented less than 10% of all deaths due to cancer in Greece and Cyprus (both 9%). Globally, men and women were equally affected by colorectal cancer, which for both represented 12% of all fatal cancer. Same applied for pancreas cancer, which accounted for 6% of all deaths due to cancer among the male population and for 7% among the female population.
Breast cancer killed more than 92 000 women in the EU in 2013
While it can also concern men, breast cancer primarily affects women, for which it represented in 2013 the most common fatal cancer, accounting for 16% of all deaths due to cancer among the female population in the EU (92 600 deaths). Across Member States, the highest shares of deaths due to breast cancer among the sole female population were observed in Cyprus and Malta (both 21% of all deaths due to cancer for women), Luxembourg (20%) and Belgium (19%), while the lowest was recorded in Estonia (12%), ahead of the Czech Republic, Poland and Sweden (all 14%).
Prostate cancer, which does not affect women, caused 10% of all deaths of men due to cancer in 2013 in the EU (72 700 deaths). Among Member States, the highest share among the sole male population was observed in Sweden (20% of all deaths due to cancer among the male population), followed at a distance by Denmark (15%), Cyprus and Finland (both 14%). In contrast, the lowest percentages were recorded in Hungary and Romania (both 7%), Italy, Luxembourg, Malta, Poland and Slovakia (all 8%).
Cancer: responsible for more than 35% of deaths among those aged less than 65, and under 25% amongst those aged 65 and over
Looking at age groups, 337 100 persons aged less than 65 died in 2013 in the EU because of cancer, meaning that cancers represented 37% of all causes of death for this age group. Among Member States, at least 4 deaths out of 10 was due to cancer for people aged less than 65 in the Netherlands (47% in 2012), Italy (46%), Spain (45%), Slovenia (44%), Croatia (41%), Greece and Portugal (both 40%), while fatal cancer accounted for fewer than 30% of deaths in this age group in the three Baltic Member State – Lithuania (23%), Latvia (24%) and Estonia (26%) – followed by Finland (28%) and Bulgaria (29%).
For the population aged 65 and over, cancer represented fewer than a quarter (23% or 959 800 persons) of all deaths in the EU in 2013, with the highest shares registered in Slovenia (29%), the Netherlands (28% in 2012), Denmark and Ireland (both 27%), Italy and the United Kingdom (both 26%), France and Luxembourg (both 25%), and the lowest in Bulgaria (14%), Romania (16%) and Lithuania (18%).
Photo: getty/DOMINIQUE FAGET