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MEPs against Cancer (MAC) Roundtable

'Cancer Prevention: the role of the European Code against Cancer'
European Parliament, Brussels


On 10th December, the MEPs Against Cancer (MAC) group hosted the first MAC meeting of the Eighth Legislature in the European Parliament to discuss the recently revised 4th Edition of the European Code Against Cancer. The Code was developed by the International Agency for Research on Cancer, the branch of the WHO dedicated to cancer research, and supported by the European Commission. The event was hosted by the MAC president, Mr Alojz Peterle MEP (EPP, Slovenia) and attended by MAC Vice Presidents Nessa Childers, Pavel Poc, and Charles Tannock, and MAC members Biljana Borzan, Cristian-Silviu Buşoi, Seán Kelly, and Christel Schaldemose.  

Dr Lawrence Von Karsa of the International Agency for Research on Cancer presented the development of the new Code, which brought together scientific experts from all over Europe in order to integrate the latest the latest scientific findings in twelve simple lifestyle messages.  

Mr Michael Hübel presented the role of the European Commission in cancer policy, a work stream which celebrates 30 years this year (2015).  

Dr Witold Zatonski presented ways in which the Polish cancer centre have adapted the code to their national context, targeting different age groups and emphasising the importance of prevention.


MEP Statements and Discussion

Christel Schaldemose MEP (S&D, Denmark) emphasised the importance of prevention but noted that Member States fail to allocate sufficient spending to prevention because there are not immediate, tangible results. She called on the Commission to neutralise this effect by offering incentives to MS when they spend on prevention.

Alojz Peterle MEP (EPP, Slovenia) also liked the idea of a system that rewards spending on prevention.

Michael Hübel from the Commission understood this downfall but noted that MS spend less than 3% of health budget on prevention which is an issue that needs to be tackled as a distinct matter. He also believes that through initiatives like the European Code Against Cancer you can make changes without enormous financial investment.

Dr. Witold Zatonski asked if part of the Juncker Investment plan could divert some funds toward prevention since an investment in cancer is an investment against many chronic diseases and helps active ageing and extending life expectancy. Reducing the prevalence of these diseases both reduces spending on health, and keeps more citizens in employment.

Both Michael Hübel from the European Commission and Christel Schaldemose MEP (S&D, Denmark) said that that cancer must be given the weight that it deserves but it should be integrated into the discussion of chronic diseases and better ways of approaching chronic disease.

Pavel Poc MEP (S&D, Czech Republic) asked why prostate cancer was not included in the code; Dr Lawrence Von Karsa, who coordinated the revision for IARC, referred to the fact that prostate cancer is still a dilemma when it comes to screening and referred to trials done in the US that gave results which prompted them to exclude a clear message on prostate cancer screening.  

Christel Schaldemose MEP (S&D, Denmark) raised the issue that without standardised data, a good picture of the prevalence of cancer was not possible.

Christian Buşoi MEP (EPP, Romania) noted the difficulty of building cancer registries and biobanks and the necessity of gathering more information through continued research.

Mr. Charles Tannock MEP (ECR, UK) suggested that The Code be integrated in education so that cancer prevention messages are taught to children from an early age.

Michael. Hübel said that the Commission will be partnering with the Association of European Cancer Leagues (ECL) and their national members in the dissemination and culturally appropriate translation of the code.

Seán Kelly MEP (EPP, Ireland) stressed that, while Member States should allocate a bigger part of GDP to prevention, he emphasised the role of Horizon 2020 and investing in research: a key added value of the European Union.

Christian Buşoi MEP (EPP, Romania) is also interested in innovation and reducing inequalities of cancer incidence and treatment across the EU. Having joined the meeting after attending a regulatory framework meeting, he noted the difficulty of building cancer registries but that they were very important.

Dr. Lawrence Von Karsa said that we need further research and innovation in pancreatic cancer as it is still found very late. We are now seeing the benefits of research and innovation 20-30 years ago in areas like HPV and therefore must continue to research and innovate for the future.

Alojz Peterle MEP (EPP, Slovenia) will support the Commission and wants to develop MAC until there is one ambassador per MS. He noted that they have already identified 7 more. He wants the members of the groups to be ambassadors for different screening programmes. He committed personally to asking more questions and trying to accelerate actions.

Dr. Wendy Yared, Director of ECL, noted cancer leagues disappointment that the Joint-Action on Cancer Control (CanCon 2014-2017) does not have a specific work package on prevention which does not encourage an increased emphasis on prevention. Cancer leagues across Europe are key experts in prevention and in communicating with the public. 

The meeting focused on the creation of the Code and improving prevention efforts. The MEPs also discussed the importance of research and gathering data across the EU to give an accurate picture of how cancer affects citizens. They also agreed that investing in research now will bring us significant improvements in the future.


Introduction to the 4th Revision of the European Code against Cancer – Lawrence Von Karsa, International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC)

The role of EU Policy in Cancer Prevention – Michael Hübel, European Commission DG SANCO

The European Code against Cancer in a National context – Witold Zatoński, Department of Cancer Epidemiology & Prevention, Cancer Center & Institute of Oncology, Poland

For more on the European Code against Cancer, visit the IARC site



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