Cancer death rate in the Netherlands higher than EU average

Cancer death rate in the Netherlands higher than EU average

According to the European Commission, the annual death rate for cancer patients in the Netherlands is higher than the European average, with the country also recording one of the highest rates of cancer in Europe

The Netherlands recorded 267 deaths for every 100.000 people in 2019

Data collected by the OECD in 2019 and 2020 on behalf of the European Commission has been used to compile “cancer factsheets” for each of the 27 member states. According to the research, 267 out of every 100.000 people in the Netherlands died of cancer in 2019, compared to the European average of 247. 

The factsheet for the Netherlands also shows that, in 2020, the country had the second-highest number of cancer cases in the bloc, recording 655 diagnoses for every 100.000 people - a figure significantly higher than the EU average of 569.

The study found that Dutch men were more likely to be diagnosed with cancer than Dutch women (759 versus 577 new cases per 100.000 people). Similarly to across Europe, the most common cancers in the Netherlands are prostate, breast, colorectal (colon), and lung, with the latter three also found to be the leading causes of death amongst cancer patients.

Talking to De Telegraaf, the Dutch Cancer Society (KWF) said the data sent "an important signal that we have to start improving the approach to cancer in the Netherlands." KWF director Carla van Gils added that, while the high incidence rate indicates that the Dutch screening system is successful, "the figures in the Netherlands are still high."

Is the Dutch government working to reduce mortality rates?

While the annual death rate in the Netherlands remains high, the report notes that between 2011 and 2019, cancer mortality decreased by 11 percent - one of the highest figures recorded across the bloc. Five-year cancer survival rates have also improved over the past decade. 

So, what is the Dutch government doing to further reduce the incidence and mortality rate? While the Netherlands is one of the few member states without a national cancer plan, the commission observes that the Dutch National Prevention Agreement has been at least partially successful: while cases of “risk factors for cancer, such as alcohol consumption, smoking and overweight and obesity” are still “highly prevalent”, they remain lower than the EU average.

The report also notes that “screening coverage rates for breast and colorectal cancers are generally higher than the EU averages” - although observes that inequalities between incomes and education do occur - and praises the Dutch healthcare system for a “strong network of cancer care", but does note that not all costs are covered by basic health insurance.

Thumb: Gorodenkoff via

Victoria Séveno


Victoria Séveno

Victoria grew up in Amsterdam, before moving to the UK to study English and Related Literature at the University of York and completing her NCTJ course at the Press Association...

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elowoman 15:45 | 14 February 2023

I'm glad that there's at least "some" alarm at the KWF. Recently, I asked a breast exam to my huisarts (GP), since it has been 3 years since the last echo I took. I'm 37 yo but I have cancer history in my family and other conditions that were enough to justify my request in both my natal Chile and Italy, where I lived before NL. Here, I was questioned by my huisarts (who gave me the order very reluctantly) and by the image specialist. Their justification was "The NL starts checking it at 50yo". I went to check if the breast cancer rate in NL was low for a policy as this one to be in place, surprisingly (for bad) I found it was quite much the opposite. We all know that preemptive health care is not a thing in NL but in catastrophic illness prevention (like cancer) it definitely should be, it can't be that hard, even with medical history, to have a mamo, echo or PAP taken.