Ask EP By / May 25, 2021

What is the European Union doing to fight cancer?

Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) have shown a genuine interest in the fight against cancer. They hold informal discussions in cross-party groupings such as the Cancer Intergroup (see the list of Members) and ‘MEPs Against Cancer (MAC) Interest Group’.

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Medical and health concept. Healthy woman showing her fist of power against female cancer in the background of the blue sky. She wears a pink scarf and a red sweater.
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Citizens frequently turn to the European Parliament to ask what the European Union is doing to fight cancer.

Cancer is the second cause of death in the European Union, after cardiovascular diseases. As far back as 1985, the European Union has been fighting the causes and consequences of cancer, even though the main responsibility for health policies lies primarily at national level. Thanks to the dedication of its Members, the European Parliament has passed legislation and made funding available that have helped improve national action plans on the prevention, early detection, diagnosis and treatment of cancer. The EU has also invested in cancer research.

Members of the European Parliament against cancer

Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) have shown a genuine interest in the fight against cancer. They hold informal discussions in cross-party groupings such as the Cancer Intergroup (see the list of Members) and ‘MEPs Against Cancer (MAC) Interest Group’.

In June 2020, the European Parliament set up a Special Committee on Beating Cancer (see related press release). The main objective of the Special Committee is to enable the EU to take concrete actions on tackling cancer and its effects on people’s lives. Its work includes identifying legislation and other measures that can help prevent and combat cancer, and looking into the best ways to support research. The final report including findings and suggestions is expected to be adopted by the end of 2021.

EU legislation

The European Union has put in place many measures to improve the prevention, diagnosis and treatment outcomes of cancer, such as:

Patient’s safety and treatment

  • Improving healthcare systems, through standards on patient safety and quality of care and rules on patients’ rights in cross-border healthcare.
  • Promoting cancer screening in the EU.
  • Maintaining safety and quality standards of pharmaceuticals: rules on clinical trials of medicinal products and law on safety standards in EU clinical trials; rules on the authorisation, import and production of medicines; law on medicinal products for paediatric use; rules on safe production of medicines and experimental treatment.
  • Ensuring health security for blood, tissues and organs.

Prevention

Diet and lifestyle

Environment

Cancer: EU budget for 2021-2027

In February 2021, the European Commission published its vision for the fight against cancer in ‘Europe’s Beating Cancer plan’. It aims to reduce inequalities between and within EU countries regarding screening, access to treatment, and social/financial support for patients after recovery. It has its own budget of €4 billion and will finance, amongst others: establishing an EU network of youth cancer survivors, addressing fair access for cancer survivors to financial services (including insurance), updating the 2003 Council recommendation on cancer screening and updating the European code against cancer.

In March 2021, the European Parliament also approved the EU4Health programme, which covers the 2021-2027 period with a budget of €5.1 billion (see press release); €1.25 billion of which will be allocated to the Beating Cancer plan.

In the field of cancer research, another €2 billion have been earmarked in the European research and innovation programme Horizon Europe (replacing the ‘Horizon 2020’ programme).

Further information

Keep sending your questions to the Citizens’ Enquiries Unit (Ask EP)! We reply in the EU language that you use to write to us

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