The Netherlands has one of the highest cancer rates in Europe

The Netherlands has one of the highest cancer rates in Europe

The Netherlands has the third highest cancer rate in Europe, with only Ireland and Denmark having more cases of cancer in relation to their population size. 

Cancer more common in the Netherlands

Figures collected by the European Commission and published by the Integrated Cancer Centre of the Netherlands (IKNL) reveal that people in the Netherlands are more likely to have cancer than people in almost all other European countries. 

The IKNL attributes the high number of cases to differences in lifestyle and genetic characteristics in the Netherlands. According to the data, the cancers that appear most commonly are colon cancer, melanoma, and breast cancer. 

In comparison to other European countries, melanoma and colon cancer are more common in men and women in the Netherlands, while women in particular are more likely to develop cancer, specifically breast cancer or lung cancer. Prostate cancer is also more common among men in the Netherlands than it is in other countries. 

Female smokers and lung cancer

The data also shows that the Netherlands has a relatively high number of cases of lung cancer. The IKNL says this is because the country has more female smokers than other European nations due to the early emancipation wave in the 1970s. 

Otto Visser from the IKNL told NOS Radio 1 Journaal that this pattern was also prevalent in other countries where women’s’ emancipation happened relatively early and relatively quickly. He noted that in Denmark - also in the top three European countries - there were many female smokers in the 1970s and 1980s.

Other cancers for which smoking is an important risk factor, such as oesophagal cancer and bladder cancer are also prevalent in the Netherlands.

Cancer mortality in the Netherlands

Cancer mortality is also higher in the Netherlands compared to other EU countries. However, Visser says that Dutch healthcare means cancer patients have more chance of survival, and that diagnoses were made earlier and the treatments advised are more effective: “The chances of survival in the Netherlands are slightly better than the average in the European Union. This may have to do with better care for cancer patients.”

Data from the Dutch Cancer Registry and Statistics Netherlands (CBS) shows that, in 2019, 117.631 people were diagnosed with a form of cancer. 22.600 of those diagnoses were for skin cancer, with over 17.000 for breast cancer, and 13.800 for lung cancer.

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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