NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


October 11, 2007

There is impressive evidence from the largest ever international study of cancer survival rates that shows cancer patients live longer in the United States than anywhere else on the globe, says Betsy McCaughey, a former lieutenant governor of New York and chairman of the Committee to Reduce Infection Deaths (

According to the survey of cancer survival rates in Europe and the United States, published recently in Lancet Oncology:

  • American women have a 63 percent chance of living at least five years after a cancer diagnosis, compared to 56 percent for European women. 
  • American men have a five-year survival rate of 66 percent -- compared to only 47 percent for European men.
  • Among European countries, only Sweden has an overall survival rate for men of more than 60 percent.
  • For women, only three European countries (Sweden, Belgium and Switzerland) have an overall survival rate of more than 60 percent.

These figures reflect the care available to all Americans, not just those with private health coverage, says McCaughey.  Great Britain, known for its 50-year-old government-run, universal health care system, fares worse than the European average: British men have a five-year survival rate of only 45 percent; women, only 53 percent.

International comparisons establish that the most important factors in cancer survival are early diagnosis, time to treatment and access to the most effective drugs.  Some uninsured cancer patients in the United States encounter problems with timely treatment and access, but a far larger proportion of cancer patients in Europe face these troubles.  No country on the globe does as good a job overall as the United States.  Thus, the U.S. government should focus on ensuring that all cancer patients receive timely care, rather than radically overhauling the current system, says McCaughey.

Source: Betsy McCaughey, "U.S. Cancer Care Is Number One," National Center for Policy Analysis, Brief Analysis No. , October 11, 2007.

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