A study on cancer survival worldwide has found huge differences among countries and even within nations.  Experts say long-term survival from cancer depends on treatment options and access to care.  VOA's Jessica Berman reports.

Experts say, for the past 40 years, there have been global data on the number of new cancer cases and number of cancer deaths.  

What has been lacking, according to Michel Coleman, an epidemiologist at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, is the third part of the equation - statistics on worldwide cancer survival rates. "The reason we did the study is, we want to know what is the overall effectiveness of health services in treating and managing patients with cancer around the world, and how is that effectiveness measured in terms of five year survival," he said.

Coleman led a study involving more than 125 researchers who analyzed data on two million patients in 31 countries suffering from cancers of the colon, rectum, breast, in women, or prostate, in men.  

The patients were diagnosed between 1990 and 1994.  They were followed to determine their five-year survival rate, considered the gold standard of treatment effectiveness.

According to the findings, published this week in the journal, The Lancet Oncology, the United States outperformed many countries in five-year survival, as did France and Japan.  

But overall, Europe had lower cancer survival rates than America.  The worst performing countries were in Eastern Europe. 

"In terms of actual survival estimates and cancer control, we can see that the differences are very, very wide worldwide.  And inevitably, they are at least in part, and at least in some countries, almost entirely attributable to differencess in access to investigation and optimal treatment," Coleman said.

Algeria was at the bottom of the list, with the poorest five-year survival rate for all four cancers in both men and women.   

But Coleman says the country could find that information useful. 

"Until now, it has not been possible to say just how far behind cancer patients in the USA or in France or Spain to be nearer to Algeria the survival rates in Algeria were.  They would not have known.  It is not possible for them to have known that.  Now this study provides that opportunity, and for the first time it will be possible to do something about that," Coleman said.

The study also found huge gulfs in five-year cancer survival rates in the United States between Caucasians and African Americans in every area studied.  Coleman says whites had six to 16 percent better survival rates, depending on the type of cancer, than blacks.