ERS statement on Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan publication

ERS statement on Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan publication - article image

Following the European Union’s announcements of its ambitious Beating Cancer Plan, respiratory health workers, represented by the European Respiratory Society (ERS), call on the European Commission, EU policymakers and national governments to set a goal to increase early diagnosis of lung cancer in Europe by 20% by 2030.

Lung cancer causes more deaths than colon, breast and prostate cancers combined, and it has the highest mortality rate of all cancers. We urge policymakers to include a specific target related to lung cancer to address this high burden.

Commenting on the plans, Chair of the ERS Advocacy Council, Prof. Arzu Yorgancıoğlu, said:
“Rolling out lung cancer screening in Europe has to be a vital element of the plan to beat cancer. We find it particularly important and very encouraging therefore that the plan published today seeks to update the Council recommendation on screening to cover screening for additional cancers, such as lung cancer.”

Though screening for cancer is an important tool for earlier detection of disease, it is important to remember that not all lung cancers will be detected by screening alone. Across the EU, lung cancer continues to be diagnosed too late, resulting in high mortality rates and immense suffering for people who are impacted by this disease. We have new diagnostic techniques and many scientific advances have been made, such as identifying specific genetic alterations and the development of more targeted therapies. Yet, we are not sufficiently improving the rates of early diagnosis and large numbers of people are diagnosed at an advanced stage when the prospects for survival are poor.

Keeping in mind that lung cancer is a preventable disease, we support the preventative emphasis around occupational factors, chemicals and environmental pollution. However, the target to reduce tobacco use by 2040 could be much more ambitious. If it can be done for climate targets in the Green Deal it can be done for a poisonous substance.

The COVID-19 pandemic and the severe acute respiratory disease it can cause, leading to both premature death and chronic lung conditions, has caused an unprecedented worldwide health crisis. The scale of the crisis demonstrates more than ever the importance of EU actions to tackle health challenges. We commend the Commission on publishing such a wide ranging and well financed plan today to beat cancer in Europe, particularly in the face of pressures caused by the pandemic. The ambition of the cancer plan is emblematic of the far-reaching possibilities for health collaboration at EU-level when there is the political will. We are confident that one day this will extend to a wider range of health conditions; together we strive for more.

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