PRESS RELEASE- Spain can do better in preventing and fighting cancer

06 May 2024
The urgent need to improve cancer screening, early detection, and the working conditions of cancer care professionals

Madrid, 6 May 2024 - Cancer is the second cause of death in Spain. An estimated 264,500 new cancer cases and 114,800 deaths is recorded in Spain every year[1].  Although the country is making progress, there are many alarming cancer statistics in Spain that need to be promptly addressed.

  • On average, Spaniard’s consumption of tobacco (19.8%[2] - 33.1% among adults under 65[3]) and alcohol (10.5L/year[4]) are above EU average, and so are obesity rates among children - a significant risk factor for cancer (10.5%[5]).
  • Only about 30%1 of Spaniards are screened for colorectal cancer, well below the EU average3.
  • The cancer workforce is battered by staff shortages and burnout; it is projected that 9,000 doctors will be missing in the country by 2027[6] and it has 28% less nurses per capita than on average in Europe3. Ageing of health professionals is a particular concern, as in some areas close to 60% of the specialists are aged 50+5.
  • As a result of regional differences in healthcare organisation and difficulties in national coordination, in Spain the ZIP code matters even more than the genetic code when it comes to access to cancer prevention and care[7]. An example of these massive regional inequalities is that there are 15-fold differences in colorectal cancer screening across Spanish autonomous communities1. More than 90% of the autonomous communities also don’t have sufficient psychological care5. On top of this, Spain has no national cancer registry and no national cancer screening service, which makes tracking both progress and challenges especially difficult.

Something must be done, and soon.

That is why today 6 May, the European Cancer Organisation (ECO) and the Spanish Fundación ECO (Excelencia y Calidad en Oncologia) are launching 'Time to Accelerate: Together Against Cancer' in Spain at Palacio de Santoña in Madrid.

This event will highlight the main challenges and opportunities in the fight against this deadly disease, and how Spain can better align with Europe’s ambitious Beating Cancer Plan. Speakers include:

  • Prof Jesús García-Foncillas, President of Fundación ECO
  • Prof. Isabel Rubio, President of the European Society of Surgical Oncology (ESSO) and Co-Chair of the European Cancer Organisation’s Prevention, Early Detection and Screening Network
  • Prof. José Mª Martín Moreno, University of Valencia and Policy Adviser at the European Observatory of Health Policy Systems
  • Ramón Reyes, President of the European Association of Cancer Leagues, President of the Spanish Association Against Cancer
  • Dr. Rafael Lopez, Vice-President of Fundación ECO and Board Member of All.Can
  • Natacha Bolaños, Regional Manager Europe for Lymphoma Coalition
  • Margarita de la Pisa Carrión, MEP
  • Carmen Andrés Añón, MP

'Spain can and must do better. It should be an example of promoting innovative approaches to research, treatment, and support of cancer patients and their families, and increase efforts to develop a national tumours registry that joins the European registries.’ Said Isabel Rubio, Co-Chair of the European Cancer Organisation’s Prevention, Early Detection and Screening Network. ‘This event shines a bright light on the vast benefits of European cooperation when addressing cancer. Cooperation is key. Yesterday we saw how personalities from different sides of the political spectrum can unite for a such an important public health challenge.'

‘The next EU Elections will be key to ensure the continuity of Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan. We must ensure a united political front to show the institutions that cancer is still a high-priority item for both Spanish people and the rest of Europeans. For that, it is fundamental to trigger that awareness in each Member State, and that our government also places the fight against cancer as a priority in the agenda.’ Added Prof. Jesús García-Foncillas, President of Fundación ECO

The event will also feature the launch of the European Cancer Organisation’s new European Cancer Pulse for Spain, offering comparisons between Spain and other EU countries. Aside from the numbers already shared, the report will also develop further data on cancer prevention, detection, the workforce, and survivorship.

The launch of Time to Accelerate in Spain is open to journalists. If you wish to attend or arrange an interview with representatives from the European Cancer Organisation or Fundación ECO, please contact:

 Alvaro Jimber

Communications Officer

European Cancer Organisation

Office telephone: +32 2 775 0200

Mobile phone: +34 660 324 099


[1] European Cancer Information System

[2] National Institute of Statistics, European Survey of Health in Spain

[3] National Drug Plan, Survey on Alcohol and Other Drugs in Spain

[4] OECD Health Statistics

[5] World Health Organization

[6] Ministry of Health, Study of specialist physicians (2022)

[7] Spanish Association Against Cancer