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 international comparisons of cancer mortality, which reflect both the quality of the healthcare system (e.g. prevention, early detection and treatment) and also incidence rates.
Breast cancer mortality has been declining in the UK, falling from 37.7 deaths per 100,000 women in 2001 to 28.2 deaths per 100,000 women in 2015. However, the UK consistently has a relatively high breast cancer mortality rate compared to other countries. The comparator countries with the lowest mortality rates are 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 2015) and Spain (from 49.6 per 100,000 women in 1998 to 67.3 per 100,000 women in 2012).
In the UK, cervical cancer mortality rates fell between 2001 and 2007 (from 3.6 to 2.7 deaths per 100,000 women), then plateaued until 2011, and have since continued to decrease falling to 2.3 deaths per 100,000 women in 2015. In 2001 the UK had one of the highest mortality rates of all the comparator countries, but by 2015 the UK's ranking had improved. Italy consistently has the lowest cervical cancer mortality rate of only one death per 100,000 women. Incidence rates for cervical cancer in Italy and the UK are very similar and have decreased over time: in Italy the incidence 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 rate fell from 9.3 per 100,000 women in 2000 to 7.1 per 100,000 women in 2012.
Colorectal cancer mortality has been slowly decreasing over time in the UK, falling from 26.1 deaths per 100,000 population in 2001 to 21.7 deaths per 100,000 population in 2015. The UK's performance is about average of the comparator countries. In 2015, the United States had the lowest mortality rate of the comparator countries at 16.5 deaths per 100,000 population.
About this data
Definitions and comparability for the indicators are taken directly from the OECD report Health at a Glance 2017: 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. The international comparability of cancer mortality data can be affected by differences in medical training and practices as well as in death certification across countries.