Though Europe has made good progress in reducing cancer deaths in recent years, significant differences remain between countries, and many thousands of cancer deaths could be avoided each year if best practice in early detection was applied equally in all Member States.

With the 2003 Council Recommendation on Cancer Screening, the EU calls on EU Member States to implement effective screening programmes for breast cancer, colon cancer and cervical cancer. It outlines best practice guidelines in early detection of these cancers. Although not legally binding, this text puts cancer on the EU's political agenda, and shall guide Member States in their national effort to combat cancer.

The EU screening guidelines for cervical, breast, and colorectal cancer are as follow:

  • mammography screening for breast cancer in women aged 50-69;
  • faecal occult blood screening for colorectal cancer in men and women aged 50-74;
  • pap smear screening for cervical abnormalities, starting between the ages of 20 and 30;

Other cancer detection tests could be added to the recommendation at a later stage if there is good scientific evidence of their value in systematic cancer screening.

The full text of the Recommendation is available below.

 The Association of European Cancer Leagues implements activities which receive financial support from the European Commission under an Operating Grant from the European Union's Health Programme (2014-2020). The views expressed on our website and reports do not necessarily reflect the official views of the EU institutions.
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