Study: Israel Is One of the World Leaders in Cancer Survival

Israel is one of the world leaders in five-year cancer survival rates, a new study by the Health Ministry has found.

Israel is one of the world leaders in five-year cancer survival rates, a new study by the Health Ministry has found.

The study found that the likelihood of an Israeli still being alive five years after being diagnosed with cancer is 61 percent for Jewish men, 67 percent for Jewish women, 51 percent for Arab men and 65 percent for Arab women.

Survival rates after eight years stand at 58 percent for Jewish men, 64 percent for Jewish women, 48 percent for Arab men and 60 percent for Arab women.

The study is based on all the patients diagnosed with cancer between 1991 and 2002 who were recorded in the ministry's national cancer database.

Breast cancer has one of the highest five-year survival rates: 87 percent for Jewish women and 78 percent for Arab women. But among those diagnosed early, when the cancer has not yet spread beyond the breast, the survival rate is 99 percent. For those diagnosed at a later stage, in contrast, the survival rate is only 17 percent.

Prostate cancer also has a high five-year survival rate, 90 percent for Jewish men.

For intestinal cancer, the survival rate is lower: 64 percent for Jewish men and 63 percent for Jewish women.

And lung cancer - one of the most deadly types - has a five-year survival rate of only 17 percent for Jewish men, 13 percent for Arab men and 25 percent for Jewish women (among Arab women, who very rarely smoke, incidence of lung cancer is so low that no statistically meaningful figure could be calculated).

The study also found that survival rates have been increasing over time: The five-year survival rate leaped from 50 to 61 percent for Jewish men diagnosed in 1990 versus those diagnosed in 2000, while for Jewish women, the rate surged from 58 to 67 percent over that decade.

Dr. Micha Barhana, who runs the ministry's cancer database, listed three factors that have contributed to the improved survival rates: more early testing, increased public awareness, and new medicines and technologies.

For Jewish men, Israel's five-year survival rate of 61 percent is above those of Italy (47 percent) and Norway (58 percent), but lower than those of Finland (64 percent) and the United States (66 percent). In contrast, the 51 percent rate among Arab men is lower than in many Western countries, though still higher than Italy's.

For Jewish women, the 67 percent survival rate is virtually identical to Finland and the U.S. (67 and 66 percent, respectively) and above Norway and Italy (63 and 60 percent, respectively); the situation for Arab women (65 percent) is similar.

For breast cancer in particular, however, the survival rate among Arab women (78 percent) is lower than the Western norm, whereas Jewish women, with an 87 percent survival rate, are fairly well situated: The corresponding rates in the U.S. and Britain are 89 and 82 percent.

Israelis fare particularly well when it comes to lung cancer: The rates for both Jewish and Arab men (17 and 13 percent, respectively) compare favorably with those for men in the U.S. and Britain (13 and 7 percent, respectively), and the same is true for Jewish women (25 percent) compared to American and British women (18 and 9 percent, respectively).

Another new study, carried out by researchers from Harvard University in conjunction with the International Agency for Research on Cancer, found that 13 million new cancer cases are diagnosed worldwide each year, and the number is expected to more than double, to 27 million, by 2020. In Israel, the respective figures are 26,000 and 34,000, representing a smaller but still substantial projected increase of 32 percent.

Worldwide expenditure on cancer treatment totals an estimated $286 billion a year, the study said, while in Israel, annual expenditure comes to $714 million.