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News announcement16 March 2022Joint Research Centre

European Cancer Information System: 21% increase in new cancer cases by 2040

The number of people being diagnosed with cancer by 2040 in EU and EFTA countries is estimated to increase by 21% compared to 2020, according to JRC experts who studied the impact of population aging on the future cancer burden.

Patient n hospital bed
Cancer disproportionately affects older people
© Photographee.eu Adobe Stock 2022

The experts also estimate that population ageing will lead to a big increase in the number of people dying from cancer of 32% by 2040, compared to 2020.

The estimates, which have just been published on the European Cancer Information System, were computed by evaluating the impact of population ageing in the countries, assuming that 2020 cancer incidence and mortality levels will remain constant in the coming decades.

Cancer disproportionately affects older people. A 60% share of the estimated new diagnoses and 73% of estimated deaths in 2020 occurred in persons aged 65 or older.

The rate at which the overall population is expected to grow by 2040 (by three million, or 0.6% compared to 2020) is considerably slower than the increase in cancer cases and deaths. This suggests that, due to population ageing, the burden of cancer on patients, families and society as a whole is going to get bigger in the years ahead.

The evaluation of the long-term burden of cancer on health systems, economies and societies is crucial for policy planning as it can help to anticipate increases in demand for services (like diagnosis, treatment and aftercare) as well as the need for more ambitious actions on health promotion, prevention and screening.

Experts estimate different impacts across genders, countries and types of cancer

The increases in both number of new cases and number of deaths is likely to hit men harder than women, as the gap in age difference between genders in the population is projected to narrow in the coming decades. For men, it is estimated there will be 1.9 million new cancer cases in 2040, compared to 1.5 million for women.

There are also marked differences in the impact population ageing will have on different European countries, which is tied to the differences in the projected speed of demographic change between countries. This ranges from an estimated increase in new cancer cases of 2% in Bulgaria, up to 65% in Ireland.

Several factors can contribute to the evolution of the population size and structure of a country. The population numbers that inform the analysis come from Eurostat projections based on different scenarios of fertility, migration and mortality. According to these projections, the share of people aged 65 or older in Europe is set to increase from the current 20% to 30% of the overall population by 2050.

The most common cancer types are estimated to remain the same as in 2020. However, the changes in population size and structure could lead in particular to increases in new cases of mesothelioma, gallbladder and bladder cancers, which primarily affect older people; and a decrease in testicular cancer, which mainly affects younger men.

In order to make these estimates, the experts worked with the artificial assumption that cancer incidence and mortality levels will remain constant up to 2040, in order to focus on the effect of population ageing. However, it is known that over 40% of cancers are preventable.

This means that we can significantly reduce the risk of cancer for the younger generation and for ourselves by choosing a healthy and active lifestyle.  Vaccination, screening and better air quality all have an impact too. The European Code against Cancer provides easy-to-understand messages to citizens on how to reduce cancer risk. At the JRC, the Health Promotion and Disease Prevention Knowledge Gateway provides reliable, independent and up-to date facts on topics related to promotion of health and well-being. This includes details about the prevention of cancer and other non-communicable diseases.

Background

The European Cancer Information System is one part of the Knowledge Centre on Cancer a flagship initiative of Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan. With a budget of €4 billion, the Plan addresses cancer in an integrated, health-in-all-policies and multi-stakeholder approach.

By supporting the uptake of accurate and up-to-date knowledge about cancer, the Knowledge Centre also contributes to the Horizon Europe Mission on Cancer to achieve by 2030, more than 3 million lives saved, living longer and better.

The JRC works with the European Network of Cancer Registries, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), EUROCARE and other international institutions and projects to provide the latest information on indicators that quantify cancer burden across Europe.

Indicators include annual cancer estimates covering forty countries, including all EU Member States. The aim is to support research and public health decision-making, as well as being an information source for European citizens.

Related content

Health Promotion and Disease Prevention Knowledge Gateway

European Code against Cancer

Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan

Horizon Europe Mission on Cancer

Cancer in Europe: 5 things the data tells us

European Network of Cancer Registries

International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC)

 

Sources

Details

Publication date
16 March 2022
Author
Joint Research Centre