(HealthDay News) – Deaths from cancer and chronic diseases accounted for approximately 42% of deaths in 2007 across the European Union (EU), according to a study published online Aug 28 in BMJ Supportive & Palliative Care.

To estimate the number of people dying of cancer and chronic disease in Europe, Jeroen Hasselaar, PhD, from the Radboud University Medical Center in the Netherlands, and colleagues assessed death certificates issued in EU-27 countries during 2007.

The researchers found that 480 million European people died in 2007, of which 42% died of cancer and chronic disease (202 million). In the EU-27 countries, the crude death rate (CDR) was 409 per 100,000 inhabitants for cancer and other chronic diseases in 2007. The CDR was 1,783 for cancer and chronic disease among the population over the age of 65 years. Large variability existed across countries. There was a significant inverse relationship for country-specific CDRs for cancer and chronic disease versus CDRs for other causes of death (R=−0.41; P=0.04).

“Dying of cancer and chronic diseases involves a considerable burden on the European society,” the authors write. “Future research should relate this information to the prevalence of symptoms and the use of palliative care services. European policy makers should take into account regional variations in developing long- and short-term palliative care strategies.”

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