European Week Against Cancer: 5 years on

Today’s post is written by Dr Marjo Hahka-Kemppinen, Lilly’s head of medical affairs for oncology in Europe and a member of the European Commission’s Expert Group on Cancer Control.

When in 2011, the Association of European Cancer Leagues announced its plan to re-launch ‘European Week Against Cancer’, there were signs of it soon becoming one of the landmark events in the European cancer community. And indeed it has been very successful, proof of an existing need. Why is it so, you might ask, given that from World Cancer Day to World Cancer Support Month to National Cancer Prevention Month, you can’t turn the page on a calendar without being overwhelmed by cancer-related awareness events? 

It is so because the European Week Against Cancer provides a truly pan-European platform that engages with audiences across borders and ensures a significant focus on policy makers in Brussels and in European capitals alike. Look for example at an indicative list of this year’s policy and awareness events: from Italy to Poland and Brussels, and from preventing work-related cancer to discussing mHealth and childhood cancer survivorship, the list is long and the issues varied. They do have two things in common though: first, a relentless commitment on improving prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cancer, and, second, keeping the focus on the European Code Against Cancer, a simple 12-point guide each one of us can use to reduce cancer risk. 

With the prevalence of cancer continuing to grow across Europe, including preventable cancers, we need to be constantly reinforcing messages around cancer prevention to ensure the best possible chance of beating this disease. Cancer doesn’t take a break – killing 1.7 million people every year in Europe - and neither can we.

As an oncologist and a member of the European Commission’s Expert Group on Cancer Control, I see first-hand how imperative this constant reinforcement is to maintaining momentum in our fight against cancer. And over the past five years, European Week Against Cancer has, alongside all the other awareness platforms, helped to achieve exactly that. So in the same way that we continue to champion investment in research for innovative new cancer therapies, so must we continue supporting the invaluable work undertaken during awareness events such as European Week Against Cancer.

European Week Against Cancer runs between 25th and 31st May 2016. Further details of planned events and activities can be found here: www.europeancancerleagues.org/ewac.html