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England still trailing other developed countries on cancer deaths

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England is still lagging behind countries with similar healthcare systems when it comes to cancer survival rates, according to a new study.

The study by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine found cancer survival rates in England have steadily improved, but the NHS still has a way to go to match countries like Australia and Sweden.

Researchers investigated survival rates for six common types of cancers in England and five comparable countries – Australia, Canada, Denmark, Norway and Sweden – for the study published in the British Journal of Cancer.

England came bottom for overall cancer survival, while Australia and Sweden had the highest overall survival rates.

On the whole, the five-year survival rate in England was five to 12% lower than the four leading countries – Australia, Canada, Norway and Sweden – across all the types of cancer measured.

For example, the five-year survival rate for colon cancer in Australia from 2005 to 2009 was 64.2% compared to 53.7% in England.

“Not only is England struggling to excel on an international level, there’s also too much variation across the country”

Sara Hiom

Meanwhile the lung cancer survival rate in Canada was 17.3% in 2005-2009 but just 9.5% in England.

The study, which was funded by Cancer Research UK, covered colon, breast, lung, ovarian, rectal and stomach cancers and was based on data for more than 1.9 million cancer patients in England and another 1.9 million patients from the other countries.

It looked at survival rates for all six countries between 1995 and 2009, and went on to monitor trends in England up to 2012.

It showed that when it comes to some cancers, survival rates in England are improving faster than elsewhere. For example, the five-year cancer survival rate for breast cancer had improved more in England than in the four leading countries.

The study also highlighted progress in recent years. While there was little or no change in survival rates for lung cancer up to the mid-2000s in England, there has been improvement since then and the survival rate for 2010 to 2012 was up to 12.7%.

The findings follow the launch of plans by the Independent Cancer Taskforce designed to save lives and improve cancer care in England

These include goals for earlier diagnosis, a greater emphasis on prevention work and better support for people with cancer and cancer survivors.

“Not only is England struggling to excel on an international level, there’s also too much variation across the country in the speed with which patients are diagnosed and whether they can get the treatments they need,” said Sara Hiom, Cancer Research UK’s director of early diagnosis.

She said it was vital to build on good practice to ensure cancer survival rates continued to improve.

“This means providing world-class funding for our cancer services and these services working together more effectively,” she added.

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