BACKGROUND: Complete cancer prevalence data in Europe have never been updated after the first estimates provided by the EUROPREVAL project and referred to the year 1993. This paper provides prevalence estimates for 16 major cancers in Europe at the beginning of the year 2003.
PATIENTS AND METHODS: We estimated complete prevalence by the completeness index method. We used information on cancer patients diagnosed in 1978-2002 with vital status information available up to 31 December 2003, from 76 European cancer registries.
RESULTS: About 11.6 millions of Europeans with a history of one of the major considered cancers were alive on 1 January 2003. For breast and prostate cancers, about 1 out of 73 women and 1 out of 160 men were living with a previous diagnosis of breast and prostate cancers, respectively. The demographic variations alone will increase the number of prevalent cases to nearly 13 millions in 2010.
CONCLUSIONS: Several factors (early detection, population aging and better treatment) contribute to increase cancer prevalence and push for the need of a continuous monitoring of prevalence indicators to properly plan needs, resource allocation to cancer and for improving health care programs for cancer survivors. Cancer prevalence should be included within the EU official health statistics.