Improving cancer screening in the European Union

Organised cancer screening programmes save lives. The earlier a cancer is diagnosed, the greater the chances of treating it successfully and straightforwardly.

Improving existing screening

Many European countries already have screening programmes for cervical, breast and colorectal cancer. The evidence indicates some ways in which these existing screening programmes can be improved:

New screening programmes

For other cancers, the evidence does not yet support population-wide screening. New technologies, including multi-cancer blood tests, are not yet ready for routine use — but research is moving fast and we should be prepared to introduce new methods, especially in high-risk populations. 

How to implement screening programmes

Clinical trials are valuable, but they cannot tell us exactly what will happen when a nationwide screening programme is implemented in the real world. So any new programme should be rolled out gradually, using local small-scale pilots. 

Once a programme is running, it needs to be continually monitored and adjusted to maintain quality. Standards, guidelines and screening criteria should be continually updated to take advantage of emerging evidence and new technologies, and the EU has a role in coordinating this. This would also allow countries to share experience and data, and to optimise the use of resources. 

The EU also has a role in supporting public awareness campaigns, and in creating large-scale biobanks to improve future research. 

Meanwhile, offering opportunistic screening tests outside of organised programmes — and to people with no symptoms — leads to poor quality and unequal access. This should be avoided. 

Recommendations from the Group of Chief Scientific Advisors

Workshop chairs

Erasmus MC University, Rotterdam
Personal profile
Declaration of interests


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Academic impact

Media coverage

04 August 2022: Sciensano
Scientist advises European Commission on cancer screening
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28 June 2022: Newsbeezer
Early detection of cancer – new screening programs are coming
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28 June 2022: SiolNET
Zgodnje odkrivanje raka – prihajajo novi presejalni programi
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26 June 2022: Association Internationale de la Mutualité
AIM publishes Cancer Screening Recommendations
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22 June 2022: Aidence
Lung cancer screening and the role of AI: Where are we?
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07 June 2022: Egeszsegkalauz
Daganat: így lehetne csökkenteni a rák miatti halálozást
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30 May 2022: Delo
Slovenski moški brez svojega presejalnega programa in pogosto tudi urologa
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27 May 2022: Vital
Európa legyőzi a rákot program Új alapokra kell helyezni a rákszűrési programokat
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25 May 2022: Euractiv
Digestive cancers: Turning the tide through prevention
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25 May 2022: The parliament magazine
The time to unlock the power of cancer screening is now
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19 May 2022: EFPIA
Revising the EU Council Recommendation on cancer screening: an opportunity to step up the fight against lung cancer (Guest blog)
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05 May 2022: Salud y Medicina
España prepara la detección precoz de cáncer de pulmón para grandes fumadores
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01 May 2022: Lung Cancer Policy Network
Urgent, Coordinated Global Action on Lung Cancer (2022)
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13 April 2022: Lavanguardia
España prepara la detección precoz del cáncer de pulmón
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06 April 2022: Wikipedia
Lung cancer screening
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23 March 2022: VECER
Z načrtom do zmage v boju proti raku
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18 March 2022: Euro-case
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16 March 2022: Health Hub
EFPIA: Poboljšanje probira i ranog otkrivanja kao pomoć u borbi protiv raka
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15 March 2022: Wikipedia
Cervical screening
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Science supports new and improved cancer screening programmes, say EU advisors
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09 March 2022:
ELF calls for introduction of lung cancer screening programmes
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09 March 2022: EFPIA
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HORIZON BLOG: European R&D policy newsbytes
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03 March 2022: Medical Express
Report recommends new screenings for lung and prostate cancers and improvements for existing programs
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03 March 2022: Euractiv
EU expert group recommends Commission to step up cancer screening
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03 March 2022: European Commission
Better cancer screening proves a game-changer
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03 March 2022: Mixpoint
Report recommends new screenings for lung and prostate cancers and improvements for existing programs
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03 March 2022: European Association of Urology
Scientific experts support addition of “life-saving” prostate cancer early detection programmes
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03 March 2022: Modern Diplomacy
Better cancer screening proves a game-changer
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03 March 2022: Europa Uomo
Europe’s scientists back prostate screening
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02 March 2022: FEAM - Federation of European Academies of Medecine
Cancer Screening
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