Prof La Vecchia warned that pancreatic cancer remains the only one showing “no overall fall in death rates over the past three decades in Europe in both sexes” and called for governments and policymakers to ensure adequate resources for the “prevention, early diagnosis and management of pancreatic cancer in order to improve these trends in the near future”.

The researchers predict that 42,300 and 5,000 men in the EU and UK respectively will die from pancreatic cancer by the end of this year.

They said the age standardised rate (ASR) of deaths in men will be eight per 100,000 and 6.5 per 100,000 in the EU and UK respectively, representing a 0.8% decline in death rates since 2015.

Among women, five per 100,000 in the UK are predicted to die, representing a 4% decline in the death rate.

Lung cancer death rates in men are 25% lower in the UK than in the 27 European countries due to “earlier and larger decreases in smoking prevalence in UK men”, said co-author, Dr Fabio Levi, emeritus professor at the Faculty of Biology and Medicine, University of Lausanne.

He said while lung cancer death rates in women in the UK are higher than those in the EU countries, predictions show a “favourable downward trend” in UK female lung cancer deaths.

Co-author, Professor Paolo Boffetta, professor at the University of Bologna, said: “Although we predict that death rates in many cancers will decrease this year, the absolute number of deaths from the disease will continue to rise due to aging populations.

“This underlines the increasing public health importance of the issue.

“Delayed cancer diagnosis and treatment due to the Covid-19 pandemic may increase the cancer burden over the next several years.”

Commenting on the research, Professor Jose Martin-Moreno, from the University of Valencia, Spain, warned that the pandemic will have an impact.

In a separate editorial to the paper, he said: “Beyond the direct harm of this new coronavirus to immunocompromised and particularly vulnerable people, there is the blow to comprehensive clinical care and the interruption of research.

“Perhaps most worrying for the long term is the paralysis of prevention programmes, screening and early diagnosis.

“Since March 2020, all of the activity linked to progress over recent decades has come to a screeching halt. It is, of course, too early to characterise the impacts, but it seems inevitable they will have marked, if not dramatic, consequences.”

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