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New Report Highlights Need for Action on Cancer Inequalities 

European Cancer Organisation Launches Ireland Country Report

Responsible for 30% of deaths, cancer is the single biggest killer in Ireland, with more than 9,620 deaths a year[1]. A new report from the European Cancer Organisation (ECO) and the Irish Cancer Society highlights the state of cancer care in the country and the specific areas that require urgent attention from policymakers. 

The report was launched during the Joint Euro-American Forum on Cancer at Farmleigh House in Dublin. 

The data from ECO’s rapidly expanding online repository, the European Cancer Pulse, captures evidence of progress but also highlights areas that need scrutiny, particularly those around cancer inequalities. 

The data presented here as part of the European Cancer Pulse highlight the significant cancer inequalities faced by people living in the most deprived areas of Ireland. Given our previous work, it is quite likely that the impact of Covid-19, as well as the Government’s failure to provide any new recurrent development funding for the National Cancer Strategy in 2023 or 2024 has widened this 9% survival gap even further,’ said Prof. Mark Lawler, Professor of Digital Health, Queen’s University Belfast, co-lead of the All Island Cancer Research Institute (AICRI) Chair of the International Cancer Benchmarking Partnership and Co-Chair, ECO Emergencies & Crises Network. 

‘Our data have shown that consistency of cancer policy has resulted in better outcomes for cancer patients in Ireland when compared to the UK for example.  But consistency means you have to keep on doing it. Letting up gives the advantage back to cancer. The recent lack of investment in the Irish National Cancer Strategy is worrying and risks sending Ireland backwards in terms of cancer outcomes, undoing the good work of previous decades. Ireland must act now,’ he added.

Speaking at the launch, Averil Power, CEO Irish Cancer Society said, ‘We know that people across the country do not have equal access to cancer care and services in Ireland. Inequality between public and private patients is growing, particularly in terms of access to new medicines. The lack of Government investment in Ireland’s current National Cancer Strategy means target waiting times for cancer tests are consistently being exceeded. Those who cannot afford to go private are too often left languishing on long waiting lists, getting more anxious with each day that passes. 

‘It is very positive that the uptake of Ireland’s current screening programmes is higher than the EU average. However, BowelScreen has not been expanded as planned. The age groups covered by screening in Ireland are more limited than in some other European countries. Previous data has also found significant differences in screening uptake between affluent and lower income areas. 

‘We need to ensure that every Irish person, regardless of their background or income, has the best possible chance of surviving cancer. Without proper multi-annual funding for the National Cancer Strategy, not only are Ireland’s cancer outcomes unlikely to improve but we are at serious risk of going backwards.’

Ireland needs to be more ambitious in preventing cancer. While the country is doing well on HPV vaccination, it is falling behind on its targets for tobacco and alcohol consumption. And emerging issues such as electronic smoking devices, binge drinking by young people, and obesity rates are much higher in Ireland than elsewhere in the EU. 

Like the rest of Europe, Ireland has been impacted by the cancer workforce crisis. For example, there are 8.39 radiologists per 100,000 residents in Ireland, while the EU average is 11.37.

Key recommendations 

ECO has presented a series of recommendations from its European Cancer Manifesto for 2024 which if implemented would have significant impact, including here in Ireland. The Manifesto is endorsed by over 50 politicians across Europe, including Barry Andrews MEP, Frances Fitzgerald MEP, Cathal Crowe TD, and Stewart Dickson MLA.

Recommendations include:

  • A minimum age for tobacco sales of 21 years old (‘tobacco 21’) to achieve a European tobacco-free generation
  • Regular public reporting on progress on EU recommendations on cancer screening 
  • Initiatives to eliminate vaccine-preventable cancers caused by HPV and hepatitis B (HBV)
  • Addressing the Cancer Workforce Crisis, which is a threat to health system resilience
  • Legal protections for cancer survivors so that they need not declare their disease to financial service providers

ECO President Csaba Dégi said, 'We are delighted to be at the Joint Euro-American Forum on Cancer to present the latest data from the European Cancer Pulse. Today's report makes it clear where there have been successes and where improvements can be achieved. With European elections in June, ECO calls on national and European policymakers to deliver on the promises of the European Beating Cancer Plan.' 


More information is available on the ECO website at:


About the European Cancer Organisation

The European Cancer Organisation (ECO) is the largest non-profit, multi-professional federation in Europe. It brings together hundreds of different professional societies and patient groups to advocate for more effective, efficient, and equitable cancer care. More information is available here


* National Cancer Registry Ireland (2023) Cancer in Ireland 1994-2021: Annual statistical report of the National Cancer Registry. NCRI, Cork, Ireland