The preventability of cancer in Europe: A quantitative assessment of avoidable cancer cases across 17 cancer sites and 38 countries in 2020

Published:October 27, 2022DOI:


      • 33% of all cancer cases in men and 44% in women were possibly avoidable in Europe.
      • Lung, colorectal and breast cancer comprised the largest number of avoidable cases.
      • There is large variation in the proportion of avoidable cancer cases across Europe.



      The aim of this study is to provide an update of the estimated proportion of avoidable cases across European region for cancers associated with modifiable risk factors.


      Age-standardised incidence rates for 38 European countries in 2020 were derived from GLOBOCAN database. For 17 cancer sites, we estimated the number and proportion of avoidable cancer cases. The mean of the three lowest country-specific incidence (excluding rates of zero) was defined as the attainable rate for each combination of cancer site, sex, and age group. The number and proportion of avoidable cancer cases was calculated as the difference between the country-specific and attainable incidence rates.


      Approximately, 697,000 cancer cases (33%) of all cases in men, and 837,000 (44%) in women were potentially avoidable. Lung, colorectal, and female breast cancer contributed the largest avoidable burden from cancer, with a combined 790,000 cases, followed by mesothelioma, melanoma of the skin, laryngeal, and oesophageal cancer as major contributors. Large geographical variations were found in the estimated proportion of avoidable cancer cases by sex.


      A cohesive population-level preventative effort to reduce modifiable cancer risk factors could potentially have considerable impact in reducing the future burden of many cancers in Europe.



      AC (avoidable cancer), ASR (age-standardised rate), HBV (Hepatitis B virus), HCV (Hepatitis C virus), H. pylori (Helicobacter pylori), HPV (Human papillomavirus), UN (United Nations), WHO (World Health Organisation)
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