MEPs unite in the fight against cancer

The EU has a duty to develop and implement comprehensive policies to protect people from cancer, says Miroslav Mikolášik.

By Miroslav Mikolášik

26 Jan 2015

There were 3.45 million new cases of cancer (excluding non-melanoma skin cancer) and 1.75 million deaths from cancer in Europe in 2012. Cancer is an ever growing epidemic, and one that is continuing to rampage through all EU countries. It is our duty as actors in the EU to work together in a harmonised, collaborative manner to develop and implement comprehensive policies to protect our citizens and lower their cancer risk as much as possible.

At least one third of all cancers could be prevented by modifying or avoiding key risk factors such as smoking, being overweight, low fruit and vegetable intake, physical inactivity, alcohol consumption, and avoiding occupational exposure to carcinogens. Cancer prevention is a vital element of cancer control and this should be given an increased importance at EU and member state level.

At the European level, we aim to facilitate the development of national cancer policies by providing the necessary tools which can act as a guideline for member states. The European commission has been active in cancer policy for almost 30 years. Cancer continues to be a priority for the commission, as evidenced by the EU joint action on partnership for action against cancer (www.EPAAC.eu) 2011-2014 and by the new joint action 2014-2017 to create a 'European guide on quality improvement in comprehensive cancer control' (www.cancercontrol.eu).

"Cancer prevention is a vital element of cancer control and this should be given an increased importance at EU and member state level."

In the European parliament, the MEPs against cancer (MAC) group plays a vital role in ensuring cancer remains high on the agenda. They work together to improve cancer control in Europe in the belief that cooperation adds value to member state actions.

To address the challenges faced by the EU, MAC collaborates together with the European council, the commission and with relevant organisations towards the goal of reducing cancer incidence by 15 per cent by 2020. MAC members believe that impacts on health should be considered in all policies, and our cross-party approach ensures this.

On this occasion of world cancer day 2015 with the theme of 'not beyond us', we are encouraged to take a 'positive and proactive approach in the fight against cancer'.

One tool that we have at our fingertips is the newly revised European code against cancer, a set of 12 messages that outline simple lifestyle adjustments the individual can take to reduce their cancer risk. The MAC group was quick to welcome this new cancer code revision in a meeting at parliament in December of last year. The messages in the European code against cancer are applicable to all individuals across all member states, and serves as a key initiative in tackling health inequalities.

As a proud member of MAC, I am committed to continuing to help develop comprehensive EU cancer policies, closing the gap on health inequalities, and continuing to work with all stakeholders to stand tall and fight against cancer.

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