World Cancer Day: how the EU is fighting cancer 


Fighting cancer is one of the EU’s health priorities. Read on to find out more about the measures in place.

Launched in 2000, World Cancer Day on 4 February is a global initiative to raise awareness and increase action. 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

EU cancer statistics

Three million people were newly diagnosed with cancer and 1.4 million people died from cancer in the EU in 2018. This makes cancer the second leading cause of mortality after cardiovascular diseases. In many EU countries, it is the number one cause of death for people aged 45 to 64. However, innovative treatment and better access to care means many Europeans now survive longer after being diagnosed with cancer.

Cancer cases 
  • By 2035, the number of cancer cases could be doubled 
  • An estimated 40% of the population will face cancer at some point in their lives 
  • There are more than 200 types of cancer 

EU measures to fight cancer

Cancer can affect everyone, at any age. Polish MEP Janina Ochojska (EPP), who is being treated for breast cancer, sees it this way: “This is something that somehow connects Europe. Because together we fight something that affects everyone. Nobody is excluded from this lottery.”

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

Parliament’s Special Committee on Beating Cancer started work in September 2020 and is looking at:

  • Measures for tobacco control, reducing obesity, alcohol use, air pollution etc.
  • How to support research where a common EU approach is needed
  • Ways to support non-profit clinical trials
  • How to facilitate the transparency of treatment prices to improve the affordability and accessibility

Marking World Cancer Day, the committee invited health experts to discuss the impact of Covid-19 and other health threats on cancer care and research and launched the survey for cancer organisations to prepare better for future crises.

A new EU action plan

The European Commission unveiled the Europe Beating Cancer Plan to address cancer related inequalities between EU countries and help improve prevention and care 3 February 2020.