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December 21st, 2010
06:31 PM ET

Higher cancer survival rates in Australia, Canada, Sweden

If you live in Australia, Sweden, or Canada, you may have a better chance of living longer after being diagnosed with breast, colorectal, ovarian, or lung cancer compared to two other European countries, according to a study published in the journal Lancet.

Researchers from the International Benchmarking Partnership reviewed survival rates of the four cancers in Australia, Canada, Sweden, the United Kingdon, Norway, and Denmark. According to the study, Denmark and the United Kingdom had lower overall survival rates than other countries in the study.

"The overall goal of the study is...to study these differences in survival in such a way that we understand what causes them and can generate an evidence base for policy to reduce them," said Professor Michel Coleman of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.  Coleman spoke during a press conference with other researchers representing the International Benchmarking Partnership.

Data was collected from 2.4 million adults in the six countries who were diagnosed with at least one of the cancers between 1995 and 2007.  Survival rates at one year and five years after the diagnosis were then calculated, as well as the conditional five year survival rate.

According to Coleman, the survival rates for lung, ovarian, and colorectal cancers all improved more or less in parallel with each other.  Breast cancer showed the greatest narrowing of its survival rate internationally. That means the difference in the survival rate of patients diagnosed in the late 1990's and living in countries with the highest survival rates versus the lowest survival rates, was larger than the difference in survival for those patients diagnosed between 2005 and 2007.

"In other words," explained Coleman, "even though survival is improving in all countries for breast cancer, it has improved more rapidly in those countries where survival was initially the lowest, namely the United Kingdom and Denmark."

Although the relative survival rates for the four cancers improved across all six countries, the researchers said the gaps in the survival rate represented as many as 11,000 premature, avoidable deaths.  Their goal is to use the study's finding to craft policy to reduce those deaths in the future.

The study does not definitively conclude what forces are responsible for the various survival rates, the authors offer a hypothesis, writing that "differences in individual, health-system, and clinical factors-such as public awareness of cancer, diagnostic delay, stage [of cancer at diagnosis], comorbidity [other serious illnesses at time of cancer diagnosis], and access to optimum treatment-are all potential explanations for the overall differences in relative survival."


soundoff (30 Responses)
  1. Georgie Porgie

    But isn't Canada supposed to have health care death panels and inferior health care overall ?

    December 22, 2010 at 09:08 | Report abuse | Reply
    • John

      Death panels ... give me a break ... look around this world for reports like this and you will see a trend that contradicts these so called ideas ... my wife is an 8 year breast cancer survivor in canada ... not calling just saying.

      December 22, 2010 at 09:54 | Report abuse |
    • Steve from ON

      No Republican actually believes Canada has death panels. They just want YOU to believe there are death panels and inferior health care so you'll keep supporting their billionaire health exec buddies. Here is the truth that so many people don't understand. When it comes down to public good versus private profit the public will lose every time. There are countless examples to prove this. Capitalism, as wonderful as it is for us, has NO BUSINESS taking care of people's health. This study proves it.

      December 22, 2010 at 10:02 | Report abuse |
    • Lump

      Uhm, John, I think Georgie's being a tad facetious.

      December 22, 2010 at 12:04 | Report abuse |
  2. gus

    It is not surprising since of all of these countries have public health care. The US is somewhere at the bottom of the pile.

    December 22, 2010 at 09:31 | Report abuse | Reply
    • JAE1983

      We have no idea where the US is, because they weren't part of the study. You'd have to include several countries with free-market systems, and control for a few hundred other factors, before drawing that conclusion.

      December 22, 2010 at 17:50 | Report abuse |
  3. anon

    @gus: RTFA: "Researchers from the International Benchmarking Partnership reviewed survival rates of the four cancers in Australia, Canada, Sweden, the United Kingdon, Norway, and Denmark."

    December 22, 2010 at 09:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. JK

    For Georgie Porgie – Canada has no" Death Panels" it was Sarh Palins way of keeping Americans away from Canada!! Heck she and her family (after she was forced to admit it) went to Canada several times for our Health care – ironic.

    December 22, 2010 at 10:10 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Lump

      I believe it's called sarcasm.

      December 22, 2010 at 12:05 | Report abuse |
  5. iLUVchez

    I was 24 when I was diagnosed with a nasty form of cancer. I was smart enough to have my own insurance, which I had figured would be used more for broken bones, etc. A individual policy from BCBS. They were fantastic. I did not wait in any line. I was not treated like a number. My care was professional, quick and top shelf. Ten years later, I'm still alive. I took personal responsibility for my self. The government should not be taking care of YOUR health.

    December 22, 2010 at 11:25 | Report abuse | Reply
    • KMAN2010

      Its great to see a BCBS employee posting on here.

      Unfortunately if it were up to BCBS you would now be uninsurable for your entire life.

      If you ever lost your group coverage you would be schlepped into a high risk pool.

      Oh and if you got cancer again BCBS has a lifetime limit. They love you... only if you dont cost them over $1MM.

      December 22, 2010 at 11:31 | Report abuse |
    • Jon

      @KMAN2010.....I am also a cancer survivor with BCBS coverage, and my rates were not barely increased after my treatment (which ended up costing upwards of $250,000). In addition, I am not a part of a group plan and BCBS has not made any moves to drop me from coverage. The one million dollar limit is also incorrect considering I have a maximum lifetime payout of 3.5 million. The insurance system in this country is by no means perfect, but it is just a cog in an overall structure that is flawed. Tort reform, not universal insurance, should be the starting point for making healthcare more affordable in this country; but, this is not going to happen since our freeloading society shudders at the thought of losing easy payouts.

      December 22, 2010 at 12:32 | Report abuse |
    • Jon

      Correction: the first sentence should read "were barely increased" instead of "were not barely increased"

      December 22, 2010 at 12:34 | Report abuse |
    • jheron

      Wow, I have two friends up in Canada who have had the same exact experience up there and are long term survivors. What's your point again ILUVchez?

      December 22, 2010 at 23:37 | Report abuse |
  6. iLUVchez

    @KMAN2010....nice anger! I LUV the vim in which you put that. Unfortunatly, I'm not a BCBS employee. You apparently need someone (GOVERNMENT) to take care of you. Take personal responsiblity for yourself. I know its a new idea...but.....if you need someone to hold your hand (GOVERNMENT)...what did YOU do to assist in getting the new health care bill passed? What are YOU doing to get universal health care legislation passed?

    December 22, 2010 at 11:50 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Lump

      I love dolts who spell "love" L-U-V.

      December 22, 2010 at 12:07 | Report abuse |
    • jheron

      Actually, I think there is some peace of mind that comes from Universal Healthcare...sure...but for most people that want it, we actually want it for anyone who needs it. Its not really a selfish thing like you make it out to be..but I doubt you would understand that. Its called empathy.
      And actually...seeing as how you have had to take advantage of your policy...in fact, other people have helped cover your cost of treatment..unless you have paid $250000 into your policy. I am not condemning you, but pointing out the hypocrisy you are actually spouting. Instead of an insurance company taking care of you, other countries have their government, and people in those countries pay into that.

      December 22, 2010 at 23:46 | Report abuse |
  7. Kellie

    Folks, as a Canadian I am the first to admit that we have longer wait times, and yes some issues with our Medical Benefits system but at no time do people mortgage their homes, wait for care or die from diseases that are cureable due to their financial status. We walk into a hospital and are treated no matter our insurance or any other factor other than being a human being with a medical issue. Death Panels...my gosh I'd also like you some Swamp Land in Winnepeg...lol.. No care process is perfect but Canada's, Australias etc. come near to it. I love Canada! Here, in the North, Medical care is a right not a privilege of the rich, employed or "lucky".

    December 22, 2010 at 12:05 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Perkiest

      As a Canadian, you should learn how to spell Winnipeg.

      December 22, 2010 at 12:41 | Report abuse |
    • Kellie

      sorry swamp land in Saskathewan then or maybe swamp land in .... ...

      You still got my point..which was the reason for the post...mahala

      December 22, 2010 at 13:14 | Report abuse |
    • Odette

      It's Saskatchewan, not "Saskathewan".
      Anyway, Saskatchewan is the birth place of Canada's national health care system. Tommy Douglas, the premier who spearheaded it, was one of the greatest Canadians of all time.

      December 22, 2010 at 20:09 | Report abuse |
  8. iLUVchez

    @ Kellie....nicely put. What is the individual tax burden for universal health care in Canada?

    December 22, 2010 at 12:18 | Report abuse | Reply
    • 4REAL

      I don't know the tax burdern...i live in canada...but i can tell you taht our taxes are probably higher than in the US...i am a US citizen living in canada...and i love the HC system hear...i lost my job 2 years ago, and i didn't worry about my wife and kids and dr appts....and paying for them....the problem in teh US i think is you want the best of both worlds....taxes not to get raised, but the healthcare to be universal...people in canada don't shutter at the thought of their higher taxes....they enjoy their healthcare and quality of life

      December 22, 2010 at 12:48 | Report abuse |
    • jheron

      ILUVchez, Canadians due pay higher taxes...but that actual number that is important is that per person, Canadian Healthcare costs around $4000 and in the U.S. the number is closer to $13000. European numbers are also closer to Canada.
      Maybe the U.S. cost would be lower if the Healthcare industry wasn't allowed to price collude...if costs were upfront, instead of behind closed doors. There are tons of ways to make U.S. healthcare more cost effective, but the Insurance companies act as a screen to the costs from the ultimate consumer...you and I, so costs are bloated.
      Medicare (which I know is government run) could probably save 30% if they just went in and evaluated how much procedures now cost with specialists. In many cases the procedures have dramatically gone down in costs, but the Fed is paying the older rates....while the day to day doctors seeing medicare patients are underpaid.

      December 22, 2010 at 23:56 | Report abuse |
    • jheron

      oops..numerous spelling errors ...do, not due...THE actual number that is important is

      December 22, 2010 at 23:58 | Report abuse |
  9. Tony

    Not only does Canada have death panels, they have longer wait times in the death panels.

    December 22, 2010 at 13:12 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Kellie

      They also have wait times for tobacco purchases also, you can't just move your igloo, you have to call a mountie for you to do it for you , You can only skate on the Canal on certain days, you must leave the dog sleds tied up on the left side of the roads now, ...its total chaos in the North!

      December 22, 2010 at 13:16 | Report abuse |
  10. David M. Low

    It never ceases to amaze me that some people will believe anything at all – even the most blatantly stupid drivel (see death panel comments, above) that makes the claim that health care in the US is superior to that in Canada. Grow up, people- learn the facts. The government doesn't provide medical care to Canadians; doctors in private practice (ie, capitalists, if you like) do that. And Canadian medical schools and hospitals are accredited to exactly the same standards as in the US, and by the same agencies.
    I am a doctor with dual US/Canadian citizenship and have lived and practiced medicine in both countries. I have done health policy research, and taught comparative health policy in a US university for 15 years. The truth is, both Canada and the US have very good health care by any standard. As with any service, some places do it better than others, but a simple blanket statement that US health care is better than in Canada is simply wrong. One more thing- the overall tax burden in Canada is not much different than the combined income, payroll and health insurance burden borne by the average employee in the US.

    December 22, 2010 at 19:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Vera

    Who or what corporation gave the Susan G. Komen For The Cure Foundation a $43 million dollar donation in 2008? http://breastcancerbydrruddy.com/2010/12/20/komens-three-donors/

    December 23, 2010 at 19:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. DENIS

    It is about time for Americans to start to be open and honest about how they rank their Healthcare system as compared to other countires in the world. Canada does not have "Death Panels" and nor does Australia Sweden, UK ,Cuba etc etc. The supposed private enterprise healthcare system in the US is all about profit first and not about the well being of those who need the care. It works great for those rich people that can afford to pay for the care. Free enterprise is great for business but should have no business in the healthcare of citizens of any country.

    Americans wake up and stop listening to those Republican politicians who preach this Bull- Sh–.! They support it because they are paid by those insurance companies who are making billions of $$$$ on the backs of the average American

    December 24, 2010 at 11:15 | Report abuse | Reply

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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.