Fighting cancer in the EU: statistics and action (infographics) 


Fighting cancer is one of the EU’s health priorities. Find out more in our infographics.

Cancer is not necessarily a death sentence. In the EU 40% of cancer cases are preventable and there are an estimated 12 million cancer survivors. Research and innovation on cancer has always been one of the EU’s health priorities.

Read more about what the EU does to improve public health

Most common cancers in the EU  

EU cancer statistics

Nearly three million people were newly diagnosed with cancer and 1.27 million people died from cancer in the EU in 2020. This makes cancer the second leading cause of mortality after cardiovascular diseases.

However, innovative treatment and better access to care means many Europeans now survive longer after being diagnosed with cancer.

Cancer in the EU 
  • Europe represents less than 10% of the world’s population, but accounts for 25% of all cancer cases 
  • Differences in cancer survival rates across EU countries exceed 25% 
  • Almost 75% of all cancer diagnoses in the EU are in people aged 60 or above 
Types of cancer that kill the most people in the EU  

Covid pandemic impact on cancer treatment

Covid-19 has had an impact on cancer cases. An estimated 100 million screening tests were not performed in Europe during the pandemic and an estimated one million cancer cases were undiagnosed. One in five cancer patients did not receive the surgical or chemotherapy treatment they needed on time

There is also potentially good news. The mRNA technology behind some of the Covid-19 vaccines might prove efficient in future drugs against cancer, preliminary studies suggest.

EU measures to fight cancer

The EU is investing in various activities such as research projects, clinical trials and training programmes.

About 40%  ; of cancers are preventable

The EU also complements member states’ efforts by:

  • making it easier to cooperate and share information
  • adopting legislation to address risk factors (such as tobacco, carcinogens or pesticides)
  • running awareness rising campaigns

In 2020, Parliament set up a special committee on beating cancer to review EU action against cancer and suggest improvements. The committee’s final report and recommendations were adopted by MEPs in February 2022.