Britain’s cancer survival rates are lagging behind the rest of Europe and other major economies, with just Poland and Ireland faring worse in some strains of the disease, an international health study has revealed.
Experts said 10,000 lives a year could be saved if the United Kingdom managed to simply meet the average rates achieved across Europe.
The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development report compares key health records from its 34 member countries as well as the so-called BRIC countries and other nations where possible.
It found that women with breast cancer were more likely to reach the five-year survival point in almost all countries other than Britain, with only the Czech Republic, Poland and Ireland trailing behind.
According to the research, only the Czech Republic, Poland and Denmark had worse rates for surviving bowel cancer than Britain while cervical cancer rates were worse in only Ireland and Poland.
The UK also had higher rates of infant death than most other countries, the Health at a Glance 2013 study found. It recorded 4.3 deaths out of every 1,000 births compared with the OECD average of 4.1.
Researchers also found that more than 40% of 15-year-olds in the UK have been drunk more than twice and it was one of four countries where more girls than boys reported drunkenness.
Cancer specialist Karol Sikora told the Daily Telegraph: “This is a really sad indictment of the priority we give to cancer - our place in the league tables is tragic. If we just met the average of the rest of the European league tables we could save 10,000 lives a year.
“In Britain there are lots of delays in the system; we need to speed up the whole process. In France, when there is a concern, the blood tests, the scans and so forth would all be done in a week - here you might still be trying to get an appointment with your GP.”
Macmillan Cancer Support chief executive Ciaran Devane told the newspaper: “It is simply unacceptable that cancer survival rates in the UK continue to lag behind those in the rest of Europe and these latest figures are very disappointing.
“Clearly, more needs to be done to encourage better screening attendance and early diagnosis.”
Are you able to Speak Out Safely? Sign our petition to put pressure on your trust to support an open and transparent NHS.