Reducing mortality rates tops MAC’s latest agenda
The MEPs Against Cancer (MAC) group strives to reduce cancer incidence by promoting prevention, reducing mortality through equitable access to high-quality care and ensuring good quality of life for cancer patients. MEP Nessa Childers, Vice President, MEPs Against Cancer Group talks about the European Parliament’s fight against cancer
Cancer is an ever growing public health concern. In 2012, cancer was the second most common cause of death in the EU: around 708,000 men and 555,000 women died from it, the main causes being lung, colorectal, prostate, pancreatic, stomach and liver cancer among men, and breast, lung, colorectal, pancreatic, ovarian and stomach cancer among women. Aside from this killer’s human toll, from an economic point of view, cancer is a major burden, costing EU Member States a total of €126 billion in 2009.
The main risk factors for cancer are smoking and drinking, an unbalanced diet, excess weight, lack of physical activity as well as environmental and work-related exposure to cancer-causing substances (carcinogens). More than 30% of cancer deaths could be prevented, mainly by avoiding risk factors and adopting a healthy lifestyle.
Whilst the provision of health care services ultimately lies within the competencies of each MemberState, the EU can still complement the efforts carried out at national level, by sharing best practises and fostering cooperation.
Within the European Parliament, in 2005, an informal group was set up by my colleague Alojz Peterle, the standing President. Together with Alojz Peterle, Pavel Poc and myself, as Vice-Presidents, and other cross-party colleagues, we work on policies against cancer in the belief that European cooperation adds value to MemberState actions. The MEPs Against Cancer (MAC) group is a forum where we gather input and exchange views with MEPs, scientific experts, European Commission officials, researchers, MemberState representatives and patients.
In the current parliamentary term (2014-2019), the group’s strategic goal is to reduce cancer incidence by promoting prevention, reducing mortality through equitable access to high-quality care and ensuring good quality of life for cancer patients. The group collaborates with other relevant organisations in order to achieve the goal of reducing cancer by 15% by 2020. Furthermore, in order to establish stronger links with cross-party groups in European national parliaments, MAC has set up an Ambassador scheme.
Since the economic crisis has hit many EU countries, and that governments have implemented harsh cuts to health budgets as part of their austerity plans, we are also focussing on safeguarding public health in austerity policies to ensure, among other goals cancer patients have access to the medicines they need and that economic policies do not block access to the provision of life saving care.
In order to address the challenges faced by the EU, MAC is working together with other organisations to help further the policy goal of reducing cancer incidence by 15% by the year 2020.
Some of the ways in which we are trying to achieve this goal are by addressing the risk factors through legislation on pesticides, tobacco products and through campaigns to raise awareness such as ‘Ex-smokers are unstoppable’.
The EU invests a total of €1.5 billion in the fight against cancer– mostly for international collaborative research projects, but also for public-private partnerships and the coordination of national cancer research. Most of the research work is within the field of rare cancers, which are linked to an ever increasing mortality rate in the European Union.