Clinical and policy cooperation important in fight against cancer
While the work done by the European Parliament’s informal group MEP’s against Cancer and the European Partnership for Action Against Cancer will continue to develop on cancer prevention in Europe and improve policy between member states, Miriam Dalli MEP says cooperation is crucial in beginning a rejuvenated fight against lung cancer
In 2012, cancer was the second most common cause of death in the EU. But one of the deadliest, and most common of all cancers is lung cancer. There were 353,723 deaths to lung cancer in the EU in 2012 and only around 12.6% of European patients to survive this deadly illness. Cancer is a destructive disease, which can leave traumatic lifelong effects on those who have to face it. Prevention is the strongest weapon we have in saving lives.
It is foreseen that nearly 30% of cancer deaths could be prevented by adopting a healthy lifestyle and early detection through screening programmes. In order to properly implement a stronger prevention plan, we must address all the combination of risks that a person will be exposed to in various areas of their life and then adapt preventive measures that address occupational and environmental factors. This pertains directly to lung cancer as studies have shown that 8% of annual cancer deaths are caused by exposure to carcinogens in the workplace.
One of the possible environmental causes of lung cancer is air pollution. Studies have suggested that air pollution from traffic and the combustion of coal, diesel fuel, and wood, has a modest association with lung cancer risk. One study looking at urban air pollution in Europe suggests that up to 10.7% of lung cancer cases considered, are related to exposure to air pollution.
Our role as policy makers is to ensure that legislation aimed at reducing air pollution is enacted and enforced. Following the major steps that COP21 in Paris took last December in setting global targets to reduce emissions, I believe that it is our duty as global citizens to play an active role in implementing these targets in our everyday life. By continuing to work on improving Europe’s air quality, the EU is striving to lead the action against air pollution in efforts to have a lasting global health effect.
Although prevention is better than cure, the importance of health care cannot be underestimated. The effort in improving health care services should not only reside in the member states. By fostering cooperation, the EU can contribute to research and equal access of information, which will impact the lives of all Europeans. The mobilisation of funds, incentives to encourage private-public investment and education about early detection are crucial. It has been proven that an efficient national cancer program can lower cancer incidence and mortality, in some cases by more than 70%. However, some cancer patients still have unequal access to medical information. Since 2009, the European Partnership for Action Against Cancer has encouraged all member states to develop national cancer plans and improve public health programmes.
This plan has strengthened efforts and improved the quality of life for cancer patients within the EU member states. This partnership has been successful in getting member states to unite their forces but greater effort is required to develop a response that will be felt throughout Europe. Quality assurance schemes, monitoring impact assessments and support schemes will also help reduce the burden of lung cancer on governments and patients alike.
The European Parliament has addressed the fact that member states could benefit from additional financial support to improve their prevention, early detection, and treatment strategies, especially states with an aging population. The work done in MAC, MEP’s against Cancer, will continue to improve and develop on cancer prevention in Europe and will improve policy between member states. In efforts to reduce the amount of new cancer patients, MAC is dedicated to collaborate with the European Commission and Council to reduce cancer incidence by 15% by 2020.
The guarantee that everyone will have universal access to cancer medicine, including access to innovative medication is a target we should strive to achieve. It is also important to continue efforts in adopting standard terminology between member states to strength European-wide prevention and programmes to improve data collection.
As a member of the committee on Environment, Public Health and Food Safety, the health of European families is one of my top priorities. The burden of cancer needs the support of politicians and citizens to move in a positive direction for action to be taken quickly. Cooperation is vital to begin a new effective era of fighting lung cancer. Time is crucial and lives are at stake. Action needs to be taken now.