International comparisons of cancer mortality

The OECD uses survival rates for three cancers – breast, cervical and colorectal – as indicators of the quality of care provided by healthcare systems, together with cancer screening and mortality indicators. Here we look at cancer mortality, which captures both the quality of the entire healthcare system (eg, prevention, early detection and treatment) and incidence rates. 

How does breast cancer mortality compare internationally over time?

Breast cancer mortality in the UK has been declining and fell from 37.7 deaths per 100,000 women in 2001 to 29.1 deaths per 100,000 women in 2013. However, the UK is consistently amongst the four countries with the highest mortality rate. The comparator countries with the lowest mortality rates are Korea, Japan and Spain. Since the late 1990s the incidence of breast cancer has been increasing in both the UK (from 68.8 per 100,000 women in 1998 to 95 per 100,000 women in 2012) and Spain (from 49.6 per 100,000 women in 1998 to 67.3 per 100,000 women in 2012).

Updated June 2017.

How does cervical cancer mortality compare internationally over time?

Cervical cancer mortality rates in the UK fell between 2001 and 2006 (from 3.6 to 2.8 deaths per 100,000 women) and since then they have plateaued at 2.7 deaths per 100,000 women – one of the highest mortality rates of all the comparator countries. Italy consistently has the lowest death rate of only one death per 100,000 women. Incidence rates for cervical cancer in Italy and the UK are very similar and have shown a decline: in Italy the rate fell from 9.1 per 100,000 women in 2000 to 6.7 per 100,000 women in 2012, while in the UK the incidence rate fell from 9.3 per 100,000 women in 2000 to 7.1 per 100,000 women in 2012.

Updated June 2017.

How does colorectal cancer mortality compare internationally over time?

Colorectal cancer mortality has been slowly declining over time. In the UK it fell from 20.6 deaths per 100,000 population in 2001 to 17.9 deaths per 100,000 population in 2013 and the UK’s performance on this indicator lies in between the comparator countries. Greece generally has the lowest mortality rates of the comparator countries (13.5 deaths per 100,000 population in 2012).

Updated June 2017.

About this data

Definitions and comparability for all the indicators discussed in this report are taken directly from the OECD report Health at a Glance 2016: OECD indicators. Detailed information about the definitions and the source and methods for each country can be found here.

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