Croatia ranks first for obesity, second for cancer mortality and fifth for smoking in the European Union, according to a report by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).
In 2019, Croatia registered 311 cancer deaths per 100,000 population, 25% more than the EU average. Only neighbouring Hungary ranked worse.
The most common causes of cancer deaths among men in 2019 were lung cancer, including trachea cancer (2,013 deaths), colon cancer (1,264) and prostate cancer (809). In women, the most common causes were lung cancer (870 deaths), colon cancer (839) and breast cancer (757).
The estimated incidence of cancer in Croatia is approximately equal to the EU average, but Croats participate much less than the Union average in early detection programmes for breast, cervical and colon cancer. Residents in rural areas and those with a lower level of education and income respond less often, the OECD reported.
At the top in terms of obesity and smoking
The report also states that Croatia has a higher rate of obesity than any other EU member state, and is at the very top in terms of the proportion of smokers.
Smoking, obesity and polluted air are greater risk factors for cancer in Croatia than in other EU members.
“The quality of cancer treatment in Croatia is lower than in other EU member states. IHME estimates that 282,113 years of life were lost due to cancer in 2019, or 6,641 per 100,000 population, 15% more than the EU average of 5,717 in the same year.” At the same time, the total costs of cancer treatment are 11% higher than the EU average.
The report warns that a “shortage of health workers and medical equipment limits access to cancer treatment” in Croatia.
What Croatia is doing
In December 2020, Croatia presented the National Strategic Framework against Cancer for the period from 2020 to 2030. That same year, it became the first EU member to introduce national screening for the early detection of lung cancer. Progress has been made in the organisation of palliative care, but not enough, according to the report.
Two vaccines are available to Croatians free of charge to reduce the incidence of cancer-related infections: the hepatitis B virus vaccine, which is linked to liver cancer, and the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine, which is linked to cervical cancer and other types of cancer, the OECD said.