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Public Health

Health-EU newsletter 249 - Focus

Ambitious but realistic! The EU unveils first steps toward Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan

Commissioner for Health and Food Safety Stella Kyriakides discusses one of the European Commission’s priorities, beating cancer, and specifically, the ‘Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan’, for which the preparatory work was launched on World Cancer Day, 4 February in the presence of President Ursula von der Leyen and Vice-President Margaritis Schinas.

Why is a new Plan needed?

A new case of cancer is diagnosed every 9 seconds. It is the second leading cause of death after cardiovascular disease and has devastating consequences on our health, health systems and economies.

As dire as these figures are, predictions are worse, with cancer cases projected to double by 2035. We need to turn this alarming trend around.

What’s new about the approach?

By working together, we have enormous capacity for change. The ambitious but realistic Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan aims to harness this collective power.

We want to focus on several areas of importance. First, Europe's Cancer Plan must take a holistic, health-in-all-policies approach. Cancer cannot be tackled only in the lab or in the doctor's office. It must also be tackled in schools, in the workplace, through public health policies, and with healthy lifestyle choices. We need to collaborate across a range of sectors such as employment, environment, agriculture, marketing, education and taxation, and to act decisively.

We must also focus on prevention as the best cure. Up to 40% of cancer cases are preventable. That is exasperating, but also reason for hope. We must decisively step up our work promoting healthy lifestyles and creating healthier environments, especially for our children. We must also continue our efforts to help make it easy and affordable to make healthy choices. For example, I will ensure that cancer prevention is reflected in the new Farm to Fork strategy that I will present as part of the European Green Deal to improve the way we produce and consume food.

Screening and early diagnosis save lives. Some Member States have national screening programs for cervical, breast and colorectal cancer, which have led to better survival outcomes, but others do not. It is unacceptable that these outcomes greatly differ between EU countries.

All cancer patients have the fundamental right to optimal care, the same access to medicine and the same new innovative treatments, and participation in clinical trials. Member States, the pharmaceutical industry, patients, healthcare providers and patient advocates all have a role to play in making sure that everyone has equal access to the right care.

We also need to focus on the person and not just on the disease. We have to ensure quality of life in survivorship, giving patients, survivors, their families and carers the support they need and we must challenge any stigma or discrimination that might add to their suffering.

Palliative care is frequently an unspoken stage of the cancer patient’s journey, and where inequality of access is very evident. This too must be addressed.

Finally, we will be creating a European Health Data Space to promote health-data exchange and support research on new preventive strategies, treatments and outcomes. Maximising the potential of e-health can also help to reduce inequalities.

As well as making the best use of what we already know, we will continue to explore what we don’t. The Plan will be closely linked with the research mission on cancer in the future Horizon Europe programme.

Activities at EU level


European Commission – Health and Food Safety

Steering Group on Health Promotion, Disease Prevention and Management of Non-Communicable Diseases

European Commission – Health and Food Safety

European Cancer Information System

European Commission – Joint Research Centre/ EU Science Hub

European Commission Initiative on Breast Cancer

European Commission – Joint Research Centre/ EU Science Hub

European Network of Cancer Registries

European Commission – Joint Research Centre/ EU Science Hub


European Commission launches EU-wide public consultation on Europe's Beating Cancer Plan

The consultation, open for twelve weeks will help shape the Plan, identify key areas, and explore future action. All interested individuals or organisations are invited to share their views and experiences in all official EU languages.

Roadmap: Provide your feedback on the Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan by 3 March 2020

The Commission has also launched a consultation on the Roadmap for the Plan, running for four weeks. It is looking for feedback to further develop and fine tune the initiative.

Commission President von der Leyen gives moving, motivating speech at the European’s Beating Cancer Plan conference

“This is personal”, said President von der Leyen, sharing that her younger sister had died of cancer at age 11. But it’s not just personal, she stressed – cancer touches us all, and von der Leyen is determined that Europe’s going to make strides toward beating it.

“Today is about changing the realities,” says three-time cancer survivor Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides

Speaking on World Cancer Day about Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan, the Commissioner said that, like the journey of every cancer patient − there will be twists and turns along the way as the plan develops. “But together, we will see this through. We will make a difference.”

Questions and Answers: Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan: Let’s Strive for More

Europe's Beating Cancer Plan 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.

See the new Factsheet on Fighting Cancer Through Research: How the EU is Helping

See the video on Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan: Let’s Strive for More

Steering Group on Health Promotion discusses cancer actions in Joint Meeting with Horizon 2020 Programme Committee

The focus of the 24 January 2020 meeting was on cancer. Participants were informed of the Commission’s aim to work closely together across Directorates, approaching the topic of cancer from both the policy and research angles.

Webinar with the Steering Group on Health Promotion, Disease Prevention and Management of Non-Communicable Diseases (13 February 2020)

The webinar focused on the work of the Joint Action Chrodis Plus.

MEPs Against Cancer collaborates with the Commission to host Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan event

The MEPs Against Cancer Interest Group was founded by Members of the European Parliament in 2005 and remains the only group dedicated solely to cancer policy at the European Parliament. Find them also on Facebook.

World Cancer Day initiative celebrates its 20th anniversary

World Cancer Day held every 4 February is a leading international awareness day led by the Union for International Cancer Control. Created in 2000, it has grown into a positive movement for everyone, everywhere to unite to face one of our greatest challenges in history.

Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan is closely linked to the Mission on Cancer

Missions are a novel initiative of the Horizon Europe Framework Programme for Research and Innovation to maximise the impact of EU support to research and innovation, and demonstrate its relevance for society and citizens.

World Cancer Research Fund International publishes report on marketing restrictions to protect children’s health

The report, Building Momentum: lessons on implementing robust restrictions of food and non-alcoholic beverage marketing to children, is part of a series providing advice to policymakers about restrictions for marketing food and beverages to children.

Health Programme Projects

The European Code Against Cancer

The Commission-funded Code was first published in 1987 and has been updated several times to best reflect how individual citizens themselves can take action to prevent cancer. The information is available in all official EU languages.

European Partnership for Action Against Cancer

This first joint action started in 2009 and brought together the efforts of different stakeholders into a joint response to prevent and control cancer.

Cancer Control Joint Action

The Cancon Guide is the main delivery of this second cancer joint action. The Guide aims to help to reduce not only the cancer burden throughout the EU but also the inequalities in cancer control and care that exist between Member States.

Joint Action Rare cancers

The Joint Action on Rare Cancers aims to integrate and maximise efforts of the European Commission, EU Member States and all stakeholders to advance quality of care and research on rare cancers.

Innovative Partnership on Action against Cancer

The general objective of the current 3-year Joint Action is to build on previous work and to develop innovative approaches to advances in cancer control.

Other interesting links

Council Recommendation on cancer screening in the EU

Council Conclusions on Reducing the Burden of Cancer

European Parliament Resolution on Combating Cancer in the Enlarged European Union

Report on the implementation of the Council Recommendation on Cancer Screening in the European Union

European guidelines for quality assurance in breast, colorectal and cervical cancer screening