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Eur J Epidemiol. 2012 Sep;27(9):689-93. doi: 10.1007/s10654-012-9723-5. Epub 2012 Aug 22.

Cancer survival in Eastern and Western Germany after the fall of the iron curtain.

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Division of Clinical Epidemiology and Aging Research, German Cancer Research Center, Heidelberg, Germany.


Prior to the German reunification, cancer survival was much lower in East than in West Germany. We compare cancer survival between Eastern and Western Germany in the early twenty-first century, i.e. the second decade after the German reunification. Using data from 11 population-based cancer registries covering a population of 33 million people, 5-year age-standardized relative survival for the time period 2002-2006 was estimated for the 25 most common cancers using model-based period analysis. In 2002-2006, 5-year relative survival was very similar for most cancers, with differences below 3% units for 20 of 25 cancer sites. Larger, statistically significant survival advantages were seen for oral cavity, oesophagus, and gallbladder cancer and skin melanoma in the West and for leukemia in the East. Our study shows that within two decades after the assimilation of political and health care systems, the former major survival gap of cancer patients in Eastern Germany has been essentially overcome. This result is encouraging as it suggests that, even though economic conditions have remained difficult in Eastern Germany, comparable health care provision may nevertheless enable comparable levels of cancer survival within a relatively short period of time.

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