Israelis With Cancer, Especially the Worst Kinds, Show Much-improved Survival Rate

Most significant rise in survival rates was among Jewish men with invasive cancer, data shows

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The Oncology Department at Haifa's Rambam Hospital.
The Oncology Department at Haifa's Rambam Hospital. Credit: Hagai Fried

The survival rates for people in Israel with cancer improved significantly between 1996 and 2016, particular for those with very aggressive types of cancer, which are responsible for a large proportion of deaths from the disease. The figures were published Wednesday by the Health Ministry and the Israel Cancer Association, ahead of the charity’s annual door-to-door fundraising campaign.

The figures are for people who were diagnosed with an invasive cancer in three periods: 1996-2000, 2001-2006 and 2007-2011, and they refer to the five-year survival rate from the date of diagnosis of breast cancer in women, prostate cancer in men and lung cancer and colorectal cancer in both men and women.

The most significant rise in survival rates was among Jewish men with invasive cancer, which climbed to 67 percent for those diagnosed between 2007 and 2011, from 56 percent for the 1996-2000 group. The equivalent figures for Jewish women were a rise to 54 percent from 48 percent, and for Arab women to 71 percent from 61 percent.

Great strides have been made in cancer research and treatment in the past two decades and particularly in the past 10 years. This is a result above all of advances in genetic typing of cancers, in understanding the biological mechanisms that allow for the existence and spread of cancer cells and to develop personalized drugs. Advances in preventive medicine, including lifestyle changes and early-detection testing, is also important.

“Examining the survival data for cancer patients helps us to evaluate the quality of the treatment and the effect of early detection,” says Prof. Lital Keinan-Boker, director of the Health Ministry’s Center for Disease Control, who presented the survival data collected by the national cancer registry.

“Cancer survival rates are also affected by the types of cancers prevalent in the population and their varying mortality rates.”

There are two ways to measure survival, Keinan-Boker explains. Observed survival is the percentage of people with a particular cancer who are alive at a certain point of time after their diagnosis, without considering the cause of death. Relative survival is the ratio of the proportion of observed survivors in a cohort of cancer patients to the proportion of observed survivors in the general population (according to sex, age and nationality) in the same period

She explained that the relative survival index enables the comparison of populations with different background mortality, better reflects the situation and allows for the comparison of other places in the world.