European Union nations screen less than half the recommended number of people for common cancers and the number of deaths is set to rise unless action is taken, the EU's executive body warned Thursday.
EU countries committed in 2003 to ensuring proper breast, cervical and colorectal cancer screening but are falling well short of their aims, the European Commission said in a statement.
Cancer is the second most common cause of death in Europe, and the three types kill almost one in three women who contract cancers, and 11 percent of men who get the disease, according to a commission report.
The numbers are set to rise given the EU's gradually ageing population.
"Investing in cancer screening programmes will pay long-term dividends, as prevention is the most efficient and cost-effective way to minimise the European burden of cancer," said EU Health Commissioner Androulla Vassiliou.
The report found that 22 of the 27 EU member nations are running or setting up population based screening plans for breast cancer, only 15 for cervical cancer, and just 12 for colorectal cancer.
To meet the targets set five years ago, the countries would have to conduct 125 million screenings, more than double the number currently being carried out.