n 11 September, the Dutch Social Affairs Minister, Mr de
Vries, presented the Presidency's priorities in the social affairs
area to the social affairs section of the
Economic and Social Committee
(ESC). (Readers are reminded that
the Presidency of the European Community is held in rotation by a different Member State every six months).
Mr de Vries indicated that the Dutch
Presidency had accepted the "Luxembourg heritage" as its starting point
for future negotiations. In the area of
social affairs, however, the Dutch
government attaches a certain importance to the subsidiarity principle and
believes that the role of the ESC needs
to be consolidated and strengthened.
The protection of pregnant women at
work, working hours and European
Works Councils, are some of the priorities confirmed by the Dutch Government, although Mr de Vries said
that it will be difficult to achieve
agreement on the directive concerning the protection of pregnant
s part of the "Europe against
Cancer" programme, a European week was devoted, from 7
to 13 October 1991, to the early detection of cancers, in particular female
cancers. The campaign message is
clear: a larger number of cancers will
be cured if detected and treated at an
earlier stage.
The first European network of pilot
projects for the early detection of
breast cancer was set up in 1989 and
will be followed by a similar network
for cervical cancer. Women are quick
to respond to the recommendations
Prevention is offering interesting perspectives. Some 75% of cancers are lifestylerelated: tobacco, alcohol, diet. The suppression of tobacco alone could reduce cancer
deaths by one third (all ages combined). And
theoretically, by following the rules of the
European code against cancer, cancer deaths
could be halved. However, it would be
unrealistic to expect this to come about
during the next one or two generations.
Habits such as the use of tobacco and alcohol
are deeply rooted in our civilization and
several generations will be necessary to
achieve such a result.
The potential gain of early diagnosis is more
modest, but it can be achieved rapidly and
independently of scientific progress and
changes in life styles. Numerous studies have
shown a strategy of early diagnosis to be
effective in combatting breast cancer and
cancer of the cervix. For both these cancers,
examinations are available which are free of
danger, inexpensive and which permit diagnosis at a very early stage. For other cancers
such as those of the colon and rectum,
research results are very encouraging and we
can look forward to effective early detection
methods being available within just a few
years. Until then, only breast and cervical
cancer justify large-scale early detection
Experience on a world scale has already
taught us that, even in these cases, a saving
in human lives can be obtained only if the
early detection programme is carried out
rigorously, with the acceptance and support
of both doctors and the public. It is essential
that a high portion (at least 60%) of the
female population participate. Failing this,
the programme is doomed to failure. In the
same way, by providing mass detection
programmes, States enter into a moral
contract with the populations concerned and
guarantee the quality of the detection
methods. If properly managed, early
detection programmes could, once running at
full capacity, save 20,000 lives a year in
European Community.
rn~v Europe Against Cancer Programme.
1 Based on a text by Professor TUB! AN A
for the "4th Europe Against Cancer
of the European Code against Cancer
(regular breast examinations, mammographies etc.). However, they must
also be made aware of other points
contained in the code, which apply to
both sexes, such as consulting a doctor if a lump appears or in the case of
abnormal bleeding, hoarseness or a
persistent cough, unexplained loss of
weight, etc.
Since its "Europe against Cancer"
programme, which started in 1985,
the European Community has become active in new areas and with
new strategies. Moving beyond protection against radiation and the prevention of work-related cancers,
Community policy now covers prevention, health education, and the
training of health personnel, in a
long-term perspective aimed at the
year 2000, making use of partnerships
and including the preparation of a
European Code for combatting cancer. The Second Action Plan (19901994) focuses on the links between
cancer and diet, on early detection,
health education in schools and support for pilot training projects.
A complete issue of Social Europe (1 /
91) is devoted to Europe against
Cancer and public health. A report on
women and tobacco "Is She still a
smoker?" has just come out, published by the European Bureau for
Action on Smoke Prevention.
v~ Vv.:rvh~?
Information: Regis M a/bois "Europe
Against Cancer" Programma, Commission of the European Communities,
Directorate-General for Employment,
Industrial Relations and Social Affairs, 200 rue de la Loi, B-1049 Brussels. Tel: (32.2) 235.17.42.

Women of Europe Newsletter [1991], 21 (Sep-Oct) - 1/4