ROME, Dec. 19 (Xinhua) -- Cancer patients in Italy have a better chance of living longer than those in most other European countries, according to a new study from the Italian Association of Medical Oncology.
According to the study, 63 percent of female patients and 54 percent of male patients in Italy were still alive half a decade after their first diagnosis. That compares to 57 percent and 49 percent, respectively, for Europe as a whole, according to the study, which used statistics based on health authorities nationally and from other countries.
"It's impossible to say there's a simple reason for a result like this, but the biggest factor must be various aspects of the country's health care system," Giovanni Apolone, scientific director of Italy's National Tumor Institute in Milan, told Xinhua. "Providing universal access to health care is a huge factor for all types of health outcomes."
Giordano Beretta, president of the Italian Association of Oncological Medicine, agreed.
"The key to any disease, including cancer, is prevention and early detection," Beretta said in an interview. "In Italy, early screening is key. When you catch cancer early it can be treated easier and more effectively."
Both Apolone and Beretta pointed to the nationwide aspects of the health system as a big plus: "A patient from one part of the country can travel to any state hospital anywhere in the country and get treatment no questions asked," Beretta said.
Besides health care system, "the lifestyle in Italy is positive in general terms," Apolone said.
"The weather is good, the Mediterranean diet is healthy, people have healthy habits. All that combines to create a healthier population," he added.
Italy is among the world leaders in terms of life expectancy, quality of life in old age, and infant mortality, according to the experts.
"Statistically speaking, the fact that people live longer lives makes it more likely they'll get cancer," Apolone said, noting that Italy sees an average of around 1,000 new cancer cases every day, for a total of nearly 370,000 per year.
"As life expectancy climbs the number of cancer cases will grow. Luckily, the health care system is doing a pretty good job at achieving positive outcomes when they are possible," he said.