Call for mass screening in Europe to prevent 200,000 deaths from colon
19 May 2007
Brussels, Belgium and Munich, Germany. Leading European
scientists, physicians and politicians have called for national action plans
to screen for colon cancer to prevent the 200,000 deaths per year from colon
cancer in Europe.
Virtually all colon and rectal cancers can be either prevented or cured
by removal of adenomas and by detection and subsequent removal of the
cancers in their early stages.
In 2003, the EU Commission recommended all member states launch
comprehensive colon and rectal cancer screening programmes on a national
scale, but only some countries have implemented such a programme, and not
all those have been implemented successfully. This means that inaction by
member states has caused up to 800,000 unnecessary deaths in Europe since
The call for action, the Brussels Declaration for the Prevention
of Colon Cancer Across Europe, was the outcome of the conference, The
Future of Health in Europe, hosted by the Felix Burda Foundation and
attended by more than 200 participants from 29 countries.
lays out a roadmap to establish the foundation for an EU-wide guideline and
the introduction of large-scale colorectal cancer screening programmes in
the pan-European fight against the disease.
The Declaration calls upon the Commission to implement an action plan
entitled, Europe Against Colon Cancer, and the colon cancer
prevention guidelines, based on best practice examples, and to make
compliance compulsory for all EU member states.
Further proposals include the establishment of a pan-European network
against colon cancer and the provision of support for the implementation and
continuous improvement of quality-assured and controlled national screening
The declaration highlights the lack of action taken by member
states since the 2003 recommendation: "Until now, no more than about half of
the member states have followed with this recommendation, either by
introducing a national screening programme or by conducting preliminary
studies for its eventual launch.
"Scope and quality of the existing programmes vary widely as do their
success rates. In several countries, too few people have made use of the
screening opportunities provided to make a significant impact on the
incidence and mortality rates of CRC.
"Participation numbers have been highest where a central agency and a
call/recall system were established to target people from all walks of life
and socio-economic backgrounds. In some countries, the performance of the
screening test in a decentralized and non-standardized fashion has generated
significant error rates.
Experience clearly shows that error rates are smallest in countries that
have evaluated their tests in a central laboratory facility in compliance
with defined quality standards. In other countries, screening results have
not been centrally compiled and evaluated, making it impossible to judge the
effectiveness of the screening programme."
Karolina Gernbauer, Assistant
Secretary of State and Head of the Bavarian EU Representation in Brussels,
who opened the conference, emphasized the urgency of the issue: "Colon
cancer has become the most common newly diagnosed cancer in Europe", she
said, "contracted, every year, by more than 400,000 citizens across Europe —
an alarming and terrifyingly high number which could be drastically cut if
we made full use of our arsenal in combating this disease. Colon cancer,
after all, can be more easily treated than most other cancers, provided it
is recognised and dealt with at an early stage."
Christa Maar, President of the Felix Burda Foundation, explained why it was
so important to combat this illness: "While colon cancer is the most common
cancer and one of the most fatal types of the disease in Europe, this is one
fight that we can win. Early recognition is the key to nearly total
Each year in Europe alone, more than 400,000 people are newly diagnosed with
colon cancer while 212,000 people are dying from the disease unnecessarily.
Nearly all of these fatalities could be prevented by early recognition. Only
a few European countries have so far implemented a nationwide colon cancer
screening programme, even though all countries in the EU are afflicted by
similarly high colon cancer incidence and mortality rates and the
recommendation from the European Commission to introduce nationwide colon
cancer screening programmes in all member states — to complement similar
programmes for breast and cervical cancer — dates back to the year 2003.
The "European Conference on Colon Cancer Prevention 2007" took place under
the patronage of the German EU Council Presidency and the Union
Internationale Contre le Cancer (UICC). It was supported by all major
European cancer charities such as the IDCA.
The conference was organised in close cooperation with the Brussels
office of the Hanns Seidel Foundation and has been made possible by generous
support from the Olympus Medical Systems Europa GmbH, the Nürnberg Messe
GmbH and Siemens Medical Solutions.
The Brussels Declaration for the Prevention
of Colon Cancer Across Europe
Information about the conference and other information
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