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November 01, 2007

U.S. v. U.K. on Cancer Care

My colleague David Gratzer has been drawn into a media fire storm over the Giuliani campaign citing a single stastic on prostate cancer survival from a long City Journal article David published last summer.

You can find the criticisms here, here, and here. David's rebuttal is here.

Clive Cook, at his Financial Times blog, takes issue both with Paul Krugman and Rudy Giuliani's ad - and his point (as David would be the first to admit) that prostate cancer care is a bad proxy for overall cancer care is well taken.

But what about David's fundamental point that U.S. cancer care is the best in the world, and well ahead of cancer care in the U.K.? Research would appear to bear him out:

Cancer Survival Rates Improving Across Europe, But Still Lagging Behind United States

New reports from EUROCARE suggest that cancer care in Europe is improving and that the gaps between countries are narrowing. However, comparisons with US statistics suggest that cancer survival in Europe is still lagging behind the United States. The reports are published online August 21 in Lancet Oncology and scheduled for the September issue.

One of the main messages from both reports is that in Europe, "for most cancers, survival has increased and between-country survival differences have decreased over time," notes an accompanying commentary by Mike Richards, CBE, from the United Kingdom's Department of Health. However, the differences between countries are not trivial, and "many more lives could be saved if the outcomes of all countries were brought up to the standards of the best" (ie, Norway, Sweden, and Finland), he comments. The United Kingdom in particular comes out badly in the tables, showing cancer survival rates that are among the worst in Europe.

I repeat: U.K. cancer survival rates are "among the worst in Europe".

Critics of U.S. health care can't have their cake and eat it too. They love to bash the U.S. system when the statistics play in their favor, even though two of their favorite statistics (infant mortality and life expectancy) are very poor standards for health system performance.

But where the U.S. excels, they ignore the evidence and attack people who point out an inconvient truth, as it were.

Still, if this debate draws more attention to U.S. standards for cancer care, more's the better.


Posted by Paul Howard at November 1, 2007 01:07 PM

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