Apparently, cancer survival rates strongly depend on where you live, and that’s unacceptable

Although cancer survival is increasing worldwide, it’s still one of the leading causes of death around the globe. And new research seems to indicate that cancer survival rates are strongly related to the country you live in.

A new study published by The Lancet found significant variations in five-year cancer survival rates between countries. The study has been tracking survival rates for 15 years, from 2000 to 2014. Researchers looked at 37.5 million patients who had been diagnosed with one of 18 common cancer types from 71 different countries.

They found that over 15 years, cancer survival is highest in the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden. For some cancer types, the survival rate was as high as 90 percent.

That sounds like a good thing — and it certainly is, in a way. But it would be a whole lot better if survival rates were similar across the globe. The five-year breast cancer survival rate in India is only 66.1 percent, compared to 90.2 percent for the United States. The five-year survival rate for pediatric leukemia is more than 90 percent in multiple countries, but less than 60 percent in Mexico, China, and Ecuador. And for pediatric brain cancer, it’s 80 percent in Sweden and Denmark, compared to 28.9 percent in Brazil.

The study discovered that even some some developed countries are doing a better job than others with specific types of cancer. For example, survival rates for stomach and esophageal cancers are 68 and 60 percent in South Korea and Japan, while they’re at 33 percent in the United States.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, many of the countries with high survival rates are also some of the richest countries in the world.


Claudia Allemani, lead author and researcher for the Cancer Survival Group at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, thinks these results serve as an important reminder to continue tracking cancer worldwide.

She said in a statement, "Continuous monitoring of global trends in cancer survival is crucial to assess the overall effectiveness of health systems worldwide and to help policymakers plan better strategies for cancer control."

In other words? We can’t continue to get better at treating cancer if we aren’t looking at the different approaches to treatment. Surviving cancer shouldn’t hinge on where you live, and unfortunately, that still a large part of the puzzle right now. Let’s hope that change — and more egalitarian healthcare — is on the horizon.