The Best Places in the World to Have Cancer

Cuba has the highest survival rate for women who have cancer.

July 18, 2008 — -- Women with cancer of the breast, colon or rectum have the best chance of survival if they live in Cuba. Algeria, in contrast, is one of the worst places to be if you have cancer.

Those are just two of many conclusions from a worldwide study comparing survival rates in nearly 2 million cancer patients.

In general, people in North America, Western Europe and other developed countries do better than people from Africa, South America and Eastern Europe.

Within the US, the analysis showed that black people with cancer have a worse chance of survival than white people. For breast cancer, white women had an 84.7% chance of surviving for five years after diagnosis, while for blacks the figure was 70.9%. The black-white disparity was also true of each of the smaller sub-populations within the US that the team were able to analyse. New York was the worst overall city in the US to live in.

Michel Coleman of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, and colleagues from around the world, pulled together data from 31 countries across five continents. They looked at cancer of the breast and prostate – in, respectively, women and men only – and of the colorectum in both sexes.

Countries vary in their background mortality rate for many reasons, including crime rates, food availability and water quality. Accordingly, the team calculated "relative survival rates", which attempt to eliminate variation caused by these factors.