Abstract BACKGROUND: Information on cancer prevalence is of importance for health planning and resource allocation, but is not always available. In order to obtain such data in a comparable way a systematic evaluation of cancer prevalence in Europe was undertaken within the EUROPREVAL project. PATIENTS AND METHODS: Standardised data were collected from 38 population-based registries on almost 3 million cancer patients diagnosed between 1970 and 1992. The prevalence of 11 specific cancer types was estimated at the index date of 31 December 1992. This study deals with the northern countries Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Iceland and Sweden. RESULTS: There were large differences between these countries, Sweden having the highest prevalence rate of 3050 per 100 000 and Estonia the lowest, 1339 per 100 000. This difference is mainly due to a high proportion of cancers with favourable prognosis such as breast cancer, prostate cancer and melanoma, better survival and longer life expectancy in Sweden, whereas Estonia has a higher proportion of stomach and lung cancer with poor prognosis, worse survival and much shorter life expectancy, especially for males. For most tumour types, the Nordic countries did better than Estonia. There are indications that cancer patients in Estonia, as well as in Denmark, have a more advanced stage at diagnosis and that the Estonian health-care system is less efficient. CONCLUSIONS: Despite many similarities and a common historical background, the northern countries in Europe that participated in the EUROPREVAL study display quite different cancer patterns and prevalence. Reasons for these variations are discussed.
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