Denmark still worst country in the Nordics for cancer

For at least two decades, Denmark has more cancer cases and lower survival rates than its Nordic neighbours.

Denmark still worst country in the Nordics for cancer
Danish women have had the Nordic record in all forms of cancer for the past 20 years. Photo: prudkov/Iris
Metroxpress reported on Wednesday that two decades of data from the Nordcan project, which tracks prevalence and mortality statistics o 50 major cancers in the Nordic countries, show that Denmark is at the bottom of almost every significant category. 
Roughly one out of three Danes will experience some type of cancer in their lifetimes and only roughly 60 percent will survive for more than five years after their diagnosis. 
In both cases, that puts Denmark at the bottom of the five Nordic countries. Danish women have had the Nordic record in all forms of cancer for the past 20 years while Danish men have been in second place behind Norwegians since 2004. 
When it comes to survival rates, just 58 percent of Danish men and 61 percent of women are alive five years after their cancer diagnoses. The survival rates in the other Nordic countries are all over 64 percent, led by Sweden, where 69 percent of men and 68 percent of women can expect to live at least five years after being diagnosed with cancer. 
Denmark’s survival rates have been the worst in the Nordics since 1984. 
Metroxpress’s analysis of the Nordcan figures is in line with a study present at the European Cancer Congress in 2015 that showed that Denmark has one of the lowest survival rates in all of Western Europe
Denmark's low survival rates are a double-edged sword, as the nation has the highest cancer rate in the world. According to the World Cancer Research Fund, Denmark has 338 cancer patients for every 100,000 residents. 
A spokesman for the Danish Cancer Society (Kræftens Bekæmpelse) said that while Denmark is slowly closing the gap to its Nordic neighbours, Danes’ lifestyle choices are the primary factor behind the nation’s last-place status.  
“We know from research that we could prevent 40-45 percent of all cancer illnesses. Tobacco alone is the cause of a fifth of all cancer cases and a third of deaths,” Hans Storm told Metroxpress. 
The same message was echoed by Frede Donskov, the chief physician at Aarhus University Hospital’s Oncology Department. 
“It’s about lifestyle. Tobacco, alcohol, sun habits and exercise,” he said. 
Over the years, the Danish government has for years vowed to tackle the problem through a number of initiatives. In August, it presented its fourth so-called ‘Cancer Pack’ (Kræftplan IV) and called it a “historic” plan to combat cancer. A highlight of the plan is a national strategy to create “the first smoke-free generation by 2030”
The plan did not, however, adopt other recommendations from the Danish Health Authority (Sundhedsstyrelsen), including increased tobacco levies, plain-label packaging for cigarettes and forcing stores to place tobacco products out of plain view. 
Health Minister Ellen Trane Nørby told Metroxpress on Wednesday that “there are other ways to achieve the goal than bans and levies”. 
“We need to instead get better at explaining to young people in their own language what a terrible decision it is to start smoking,” she said. 

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Danish government to increase price of cigarettes

Denmark’s government says it should be more expensive to buy cigarettes in the Scandinavian country and has proposed raising the price of a packet to 50 kroner (6.70 euros).

Danish government to increase price of cigarettes
File photo: Liselotte Sabroe/Ritzau Scanpix

The price hike from the current 40 kroner will take place in two stages, with a 5 krone increase in both 2020 and 2021, according to Danish media reports.

Several parties in the country’s parliament have expressed their desire to raise cigarette prices, but social and health minister Magnus Heunicke said he was concerned about the social impact of a steep increase.

“We can’t have different prices in Denmark. For young people, that is a lot of money, so we think this is the right level,” the minister said to the Danmark media.

The price raise is part of a wider range of proposals to be presented by the government aimed at reducing the number of young people who smoke. Other elements include neutral packaging and a ban on displaying cigarettes in stores.

Heunicke also called for stricter application of the law preventing cigarette sales to under 18s and harsher fines for illegal sales.

Opposition health spokesperson Sophie Løhde of the Liberal party said the increase proposed by the Social Democrat government did not go far enough.

“I’m very disappointed. The health minister seems to think he’s the tax minister and that revenues [from taxing tobacco sales, ed.] are more important than the goal of making young people and children smoke-free,” Løhde said.

The Liberals recently called for a price increase to 60 kroner per packet of cigarettes.

Løhde also said there may be enough support amongst other parties for a parliamentary majority to get behind a higher price increase, even without government support.

READ ALSO: A packet of cigarettes could soon cost 50 percent more in Denmark