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Beating Cancer Plan - background guide

04 February 2020
by eub2 -- last modified 04 February 2020

On World Cancer Day 2020, the European Commission launched an EU-wide public consultation on Europe's Beating Cancer Plan. The consultation will help shape the Plan, identify key areas, and explore future action.


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Why will the Commission present a Cancer Plan for Europe?

An estimated 40% of EU citizens will face cancer at some stage in their lives. Cancer - a term covering over 200 diseases – is today the second leading cause of death in the EU, with 1.3 million deaths and 3.5 million new cases per year. Without further action to reverse current trends, it is estimated that, by 2035, cancer cases in the EU could have doubled in number, making the disease the leading cause of death in middle age before cardiovascular diseases. With up to 40% of cancer cases being attributed to preventable causes, there is an important scope for action and potential to reduce the number of cases in the EU. However, currently, only an average of 3% of health budgets is spent on prevention across the EU.

Even if Europe is the world region with the longest life expectancy, lifestyle patterns, behavioural and environmental indicators – such as tobacco and alcohol consumption, unhealthy diets, lack of physical activity or exposure to environmental risk factors – continue to contribute to an increase in premature mortality from non-communicable diseases – in particular cancer.

Beyond its health impact, cancer also imposes a significant financial burden throughout Europe on national health and social systems, governmental budgets and the productivity and growth of the economy, including a healthy workforce. The cost of cancer care in EU-27 countries is increasing at an unprecedented rate, driven by demographic changes and expanding innovation within health care. Overall, the economic impact of cancer in Europe is estimated to exceed €100 billion annually.

In addition, substantial inequalities exist both within and between EU countries in areas such as cancer incidence or access to diagnosis and treatment, expertise and research innovation.

What does Europe's Beating Cancer Plan aim to achieve and how?

Europe's Beating Cancer Plan - to be presented before the end of the year - will set out actions to support, coordinate or supplement Member state's efforts in all key stages of the disease, from: prevention, early diagnosis and screening, treatment and care, the quality of life of patients, survivors and caregivers. It will include a combination of legislative and non-legislative measures.

The Cancer Plan will be closely linked with the research mission on cancer in the Horizon Europe programme, a novel initiative aimed at maximising the impact of EU support to research and innovation. The Mission will provide evidence-based knowledge to target specific action from cancer prevention to social integration.

In the process of developing the Cancer Plan, the Commission will seek the engagement of Member States - primarily responsible for healthcare - the research community, healthcare professionals, policy-makers, NGOs and patients, as well as businesses and industry, including SMEs, and other stakeholders including key international organisations. The consultations launched today will gather views of citizens and organisations on the scope and actions of the Cancer Plan.

The Cancer Plan will follow a "health in all policies" approach and be closely linked to other priorities of the Commission in areas such as the environment and climate change, social policy, digital transformation, food and nutrition, pharmaceuticals and safer chemicals – including the Farm to Fork and Zero Pollution strategy, the European Health Data Space, the 1+ Million Genomes Initiative and the new pharmaceutical and chemical strategies.

How much funding will be available for cancer prevention and care?

The European Commission has put forward ambitious proposals for a modern and long-term EU budget for 2021-2017, and negotiations on the multiannual financial framework (MFF) are currently ongoing. Once agreed and adopted, different sources of funding will be available for cancer, such as the ESF+, Horizon Europe, Structural Funds, Regional Funds and the framework for nuclear research.

Whilst at this stage it is not possible to present specific amounts, considering the importance the Commission is attaching to the Cancer Plan, the actions proposed will be accompanied with the necessary funding.

Will the high focus on cancer reduce the attention for other major non-communicable diseases?

As many non-communicable diseases share the same common risk factors, increased focus on cancer prevention will also have a positive impact in other areas. Therefore, ambitious actions to address for example lifestyle, environmental pollution, vaccination and early screening will also benefit other non-communicable diseases.

What is the Commission presenting today?

The Commission is today launching the preparatory work on Europe's Beating Cancer Plan. The development and outline of the plan will be based on an extensive consultation process with stakeholders and the general public.

As a first step, the Commission is launching two consultations. The first one is aimed at the citizens and stakeholders to gather views on the outline of the Cancer Plan, help identifying priority areas and the scope for future action. This first consultation will run for 12 weeks.

The second consultation focuses on the Commission's Roadmap for the Cancer Plan. In this document, the Commission outlines the context, scope and aim of the initiative and the added value of EU action. This consultation will be open for 4 weeks.

What are the next steps?

The feedback received from the public consultation and the consultation on the roadmap will be analysed and feed into the preparatory work to develop and outline the Cancer Plan. In addition, until early summer, the Commission will listen to stakeholders' ideas and best practices through targeted workshops and visits to Member States. The Commission will draft the plan taking into account all the feedback received.

Europe's Beating Cancer Plan is expected to be presented in the last quarter of 2020.

Public consultation on Europe's Beating Cancer Plan

Consultation on Roadmap for Europe's Beating Cancer Plan

Factsheet 'Why do we need an EU Cancer Plan'

Factsheet Fighting Cancer Through Research

Source: European Commission

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