Cancer-related deaths slightly down

06/09/2005 14:00

Last year over 40 thousand people died from cancer in the Netherlands. Three in ten deaths are cancer-related. There is a minor year-on-year increase in cancer mortality.

Cancer-related mortality

Cancer-related mortality

Reduced risk of dying from cancer

If size and age distribution are taken into account, the risk of dying from cancer in the Netherlands has dropped in the last decades. The decline, which began halfway through the 1980s, was sharper in men than in women. The cancer-related mortality risk in women is still marginally lower than in men but the gap is closing.

Deaths by type of cancer, 2004

Deaths by type of cancer, 2004

Cancer number one cause of death in the near future

Lung cancer, accounting for nearly a quarter of total cancer-related mortality, is by far the most common cancer-related cause of death. With only 9 percent, cancer of the colon is the second most common cancer-related cause of death, followed by breast cancer accounting for 8 percent. Fewer women than men die from lung cancer but female lung cancer mortality is expected to rise in the near future and become the most leading cause of cancer-related death.
In spite of improved prevention and treatment methods, cancer-related mortality is expected to become the leading cause of death in the second decade of the twenty-first century, ousting cardiovascular diseases as the number one cause of death in the Netherlands

Change in risk of dying from cancer, 1994-2004

Change in risk of dying from cancer, 1994-2004

Lung cancer and cancer of the oesophagus

A few decades ago men began to change their smoking behaviour resulting in a reduced male mortality risk. Smoking largely accounts for the current number of lung cancer-related deaths. At the time, smoking rates among men rapidly declined, whereas more women began to smoke cigarettes.
During the past decade, the risk for women to die from lung cancer has indeed risen sharply. Out of the ten most common types of cancer, only the mortality risk of cancer of the oesophagus increased. Alcohol consumption and smoking contribute to a higher risk of dying from this type of cancer.

Favourable trend most other types of cancer

After years of stagnation, breast cancer-related mortality has evidently dropped since the mid-1980s. The decrease may have been caused by broader screening of the population and improved treatment methods. If the current trend persists, the annual breast cancer mortality rate for women will be smaller than the lung cancer mortality rate for women in two years time. Of all common types of cancer, the risk of dying from stomach cancer has dropped most significantly. The decrease is the continuation of a long-lasting trend, which was first recorded in the 1930s.

Joop Garssen and Jan Hoogenboezem