More than 100 institutes and groups, including hospitals, patients’ organisations and government departments will on Monday launch a new organisation to reduce cancer – the Nederlands Kanker Collectief, the Dutch cancer collective or NKC.
The collective has drawn up 20 targets ranging from prevention to palliative care and will focus initially on stopping smoking, early detection, rare cancers, the effect of late detection and cancer’s impact on work.
The Netherlands, the founders say, is the only country in the EU without a national umbrella strategy.
“We really need a strategy like this,” Johan van de Gronden, director of cancer charity KWF Kankerbestrijding, told broadcaster NOS. By 2032, experts expect 156,000 people will be diagnosed with cancer and 1.4 million people will either be living with cancer or have had the disease and recovered.
The Netherlands also trails many other European countries. The number of people dying of cancer in the Netherlands is 8% higher than the European average and people are 15% more likely to develop the disease.
“Cancer is the number 1 cause of death in the Netherlands,” he said. “But you could prevent one third of those 150,000 diagnoses with preventative measures. But you need to look at this on a society-wide scale and that can only be done with an integral, national plan.”
One aspect of this is making sure supermarkets change their approach and boost the proportion of healthy food on their shelves. Lowering valued added tax on healthy food, making it cheaper, is also an option. Children should learn at a young age what a healthy meal is, and preventing youngsters from starting smoking is also key.
A similar integrated plan in Denmark in 2000 has led to a rapid improvement in breast cancer rates in Denmark, Van de Gronden said. “Denmark now has one of the best outcomes in terms of breast cancer,” he said. “We have to learn from them.”
Half the Dutch will be given a cancer diagnosis at some point in their lives but survival chances are improving all around, the Dutch cancer centre IKNL said in September.
Up to now, one in three people are diagnosed with cancer but rising life expectancy rates have pushed that up to one in two, the IKNL. Lifestyle choices such as drinking alcohol, smoking, sunbathing and obesity are also all having an impact.
Some 80% of those diagnosed with cancer are over the age of 60. Between 1990 and 2019 the diagnosis rate rose for women from 33% to 47% and for men from 40% to 54%.
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