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Radiotherapy demand will rise sharply over next decade

Study predicts 16% rise in demand between 2012 and 2025

Adrian O'Dowd

Monday, 18 April 2016

Demand for radiotherapy across all European countries is set to rise substantially over the next decade, according to a study* published today in the journal Radiotherapy and Oncology.

Results of the study by HERO – the Health Economics in Radiation Oncology project of the European Society for Radiotherapy and Oncology – will also be presented at the ESTRO 35 conference, to be held in Turin, Italy, at the end of the month.

The research group, made up of senior radiation oncologists and epidemiologists from Belgium, Denmark, Spain, France and Australia, analysed European cancer incidence for the year 2013 by country and by tumour site, using data from the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) GLOBOCAN project on worldwide cancer incidence and mortality.

The researchers applied the 2012 country, sex and site incidence rates to the population forecast for 2025 in order to obtain projections of new cancer cases for that year.

About four million new cancer patients are expected in Europe in 2025. This estimate is based on demographic changes, and represents a 15.9% increase on the 3.4 million diagnosed in 2012, assuming that overall cancer rates remain unchanged.

Of these four million, the number of patients who would benefit from radiotherapy treatment at least once during the course of their disease would rise from approximately 1.7 million patients in 2012 to two million in 2025, which represents an increase of 16.1%.

The detailed estimates for different tumour sites produced some major increases.

In breast, rectum, head and neck, lung and prostate tumours, which account for the highest percentage of patients in a radiotherapy department, there were relative increases of more than 25% in rectal patients for whom radiotherapy would be indicated in Spain, The Netherlands, and the Czech Republic, while Belgium, the UK, and Denmark had estimated increases of more than 20%.

Prostate cancer showed the highest expected increase over the period, with a 24.4% rise, followed by bladder cancer (21%) and multiple myeloma (20.4%), whereas projected increases in female breast cancer, lymphomas, and head and neck cancer were below average.

Professor Yolande Lievens, from the Radiation Oncology Department, Ghent University Hospital, Ghent, Belgium, who is a co-author of the paper and president elect of ESTRO, said: “Because radiotherapy involves significant outlay in equipment costs as well as in staff, long-term planning is necessary in order to achieve the required results.

“We, therefore, decided to try to forecast the radiotherapy needs of new cancer patients in the short to medium term in order to gain sufficient time for the purchase of appropriate machinery and the personnel training that will be required to meet this need.”

Co-author Professor Cai Grau, from Aarhus University Hospital, Aarhus, Denmark, said: “Being able to estimate the number of new cancer patients requiring radiotherapy is essential if we are to be able to plan for radiotherapy services. We have shown clearly that the need for radiotherapy across Europe will increase substantially by the year 2025.”

Professor Lievens added: “We hope that our study will focus the minds of European policymakers on the need to invest in radiotherapy, particularly as we know that there are already important differences in equipment and staff between European countries.”


* Borras J M, et al. How many new cancer patients in Europe will require radiotherapy by 2025? An ESTRO-HERO analysis. Radiotherapy and Oncology, April 2016. DOI: 10.1016/j.radonc.2016.02.016

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