More female cancer patients in Spain

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Lady with cancer

Annually, February 4th is World Cancer Day. This prompts the Spanish news service El Español to delve into the development of the disease and the patient count. Also in Spain, the incidence of cancer has increased in the last 25 years of the 21st century.

Among men, the number of new cancer patients in Spain has steadily declined over the past 20 years. For women, however, the number of new cancer cases continues to rise. The incidence rate now exceeds 440 cases per 100,000 women. Lung cancer, in particular, is significantly on the rise among women.

‘Previously, it wasn’t even among the top 10 tumors in women. But for a few years now, lung cancer has been in third place, after breast and colorectal cancer.’ This was reported by Jaume Galcerán, the president of the Spanish network of cancer registries, during the presentation of a report with the annual estimates of cases in Spain.

Incidence and survival rate of cancer

Despite the increase in the incidence of cancer among women, the chance of survival for women is still higher than for men: 61.7% versus 55.3%. The incidence among men was nearly 800 cases per 100,000 inhabitants in 2005. By 2014, this had dropped to 731.9. Now, there are 679.2 new tumor diagnoses per 100,000 people: a decrease of 7.8% in ten years.

For women, the incidence 20 years ago was less than 400 cases. This rose to 414.6 in 2014, and this year it is estimated at 440.9 per 100,000 women. An increase of 6.3% in ten years.

Types of cancer in men

The landscape for men and women has also changed in terms of the type of cancer diagnosed. Prostate cancer remains the most common type among men. However, the difference with colorectal cancer is decreasing. Lung and bladder tumors are the fourth and fifth most diagnosed cancers in men. In both cases, the incidence has decreased over the years: both are now below one per 1,000.

Types of cancer in women

Breast cancer remains the most common type among women, with its incidence continuing to rise. This is followed by colorectal cancer. Lung cancer is in third place, ahead of cervical cancer. Experts highlight the progressive increase in lung cancer among women. In ten years, the incidence has risen by 56.4%, from 23.4 cases per 100,000 inhabitants to 36.6. This is the highest growth of all tumors in both sexes.

Reasons for the increase in cancer patients

The increase in various tumors in cancer patients is due to the prevalence of certain risk factors such as obesity, alcohol, or unhealthy diet. Additionally, it’s also due to the further aging of the population – who no longer die from other diseases – and an increasingly early diagnosis.

More cancer patients but more chance of survival

A higher incidence does not always mean a greater risk. The chance of surviving cancer has increased so far this century. Here, too, there are differences between men and women. At the start of the century, 52% of men were alive five years after diagnosis. This percentage increased to 55.3% between 2008-2013.

Survival increased in all age groups up to 75 years by 5%. After that, the chance in the examined period became slightly smaller: from 42.4% to 41.4%.

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Depending on the type of tumor, survival chances are very different: 90% in prostate and testicular and 86% in thyroid. On the other hand, it’s 7% in pancreatic cancer, 12% in lung cancer, and 13% in esophageal cancer.

Increase in survival of cancer in women slightly lower

The increase in survival of cancer in women is slightly lower than in men: from 59.1% at the beginning of the century to 61.7% in 2013. However, the chance has risen in all age groups, especially between 15 and 44 years (from 80.5% to 84%) and between 65 and 74 years (from 57.6% to 62.1%).

The tumors with the highest survival rate in women were thyroid (93%), skin melanoma (89%), and breast (86%), while pancreatic (10%), liver and esophageal (16%), and lung (18%) had the worst figures.

Increasing the chance of survival; an action plan

During the presentation of the cancer figures in Spain, the president of the Spanish Association for Medical Oncology (SEOM), César Rodríguez, pointed out that the goal for 2030 is to achieve a total survival of 70%. ‘It is a very difficult goal, but we must be ambitious.’

Cancer specialists mention several tools for this. Firstly, through prevention. For this reason, SEOM has launched a campaign to promote physical activity. This can reduce the risk of many forms of cancer by up to 30%.

And it not only reduces the risk of developing an invasive tumor, but it also improves the prognosis for people who have been treated for or have had cancer. ‘Those who have a tumor improve their prognosis and quality of life with exercise.’

In addition, there is the fight against risk factors. A third of cancer deaths worldwide are due to five risk factors: tobacco, obesity, alcohol, inadequate diet, and too little exercise. Tobacco is by far the most dangerous factor. In Spain, 17% of the population continues to smoke daily (20.2% of men and 13.9% of women). Vapers are added to this, but their impact is not yet known.

Early diagnosis of cancer is the third pillar of the strategy. A tumor detected at an early stage of development has a much better prognosis than a tumor discovered when it has metastasized. The utility of screening is especially great for breast, colorectal, and gynecological cancers. A screening program for lung cancer is still being considered.

Finally, there are also new treatments, such as immunotherapy, which significantly increase the chance of survival for a number of tumors.

Also read: Where in Spain is the risk of dying from cancer the greatest?

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