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 consistenlty amongst the top 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 November 2016.

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. In 2010, Italy had only one death per 100,000 women, followed by Finland with 1.5 deaths 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.

Last updated: July 2015.

Source: 

Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, Health Data

How does colorectal cancer mortality compare internationally over time?

Finally, colorectal cancer mortality has been slowly declining over time. In the UK it fell from 26.1 deaths per 100,000 population in 2001 to 22.9 deaths per 100,000 population in 2010 and the UK’s performance on this indicator lies in between the comparator countries. Greece, which has the lowest mortality rates of the comparator countries (17.1 deaths per 100,000 population in 2011), had an incidence rate of 13.5 per 100,000 population in 2012 while incidence in the UK was more than double in the same year, with 30.2 per 100,000 population. It is also interesting to note that Australia has one of the lowest mortality rates (19 deaths per 100,000 population in 2011), but one of the highest incidence rates (38.4 per 100,000 in 2012) relative to the other comparator countries. Mexico had the lowest mortality rate of all the OECD countries with 7.7 deaths per 100,000 population in 2012.

For more information see our indicators on cancer screening and survival.

Last updated: July 2015. 

Source: 

Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, Health Data

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 2013: OECD indicators. Detailed information about the definitions and the source and methods for each country can be found here.

Mortality rates are based on numbers of deaths registered in a country in a year divided by the size of the corresponding population. The rates have been directly age-standardised to the 2010 OECD population to remove variations arising from differences in age structures across countries and over time. The source is the WHO Mortality Database. Deaths from all cancers are classified to ICD-10 codes C00-C97. Mathers and others (2005) have provided a general assessment of the coverage, completeness and reliability of data on causes of death. Mortality rates of colorectal cancer are based on ICD-10 codes C18-C21 (colon, rectosigmoid junction, rectum, and anus).

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