The European Union hopes to draw up a joint plan of action in the fight against cancer by next year, European Health Commissioner Androulla Vassiliou said Thursday.
"We should come up with a common action plan against cancer in the EU next year," Vassiliou said on the sidelines of a two-day informal meeting of health ministers here.
The emphasis will on prevention as well as cure, said Vassiliou, who took over the EU's health portfolio earlier this month.
Young people should be made more aware of the benefits of leading a healthy life so as to reduce the risk of cancer later in life, she said.
Excessive alcohol consumption, smoking and obesity during youth all increase the risk of cancer, and it is essential that young people be made aware of that, said Vassiliou.
"We have to fight cancer, and the best way to do it is through prevention. We intend to put the emphasis on health and youth," she said.
Vassiliou said breast cancer was currently one of the biggest killers of women in the European Union. But she noted that preventative measures, such as regular screening, were proving effective in some countries.
"I'm pleased to say that the most successful screening we have in the EU is that of breast cancer," Vassiliou said, who added however that "we're still a long way from giving all women in the EU a chance to have screening".
Slovenia currently holds the EU's rotating presidency and the informal meeting here was to prepare for a gathering of EU health ministers in Luxembourg in June.