Breast cancer is the most common cancer among women, not only in the EU, but worldwide. Colorectal cancer is the third most diagnosed cancer in men and the second one in women.


Statistics from the European Cancer Information System (ECIS) estimated more than 350 000 new breast cancer cases diagnosed in 2020 only in EU-27, accounting for 29% of all new cancer diagnoses in women.

According to the estimates from the European Cancer Information System for 2020, there were 341 419 new cases and 156 105 people died from colorectal cancer in the EU, accounting for 12.7% of all new cancer diagnoses and 12.4% of all deaths.

Moreover, data show discrepancies in incidence and mortality rates between Member States, and even within Member States, where mortality is higher than the European average despite a lower incidence. This may depend on many factors including quality and readily access to care.

The European Commission Initiatives on Breast (ECIBC) and Colorectal Cancer (ECICC) seek to improve the approach to breast and colorectal cancer prevention, screening and care and to overcome inequalities in accessing care across Europe.


These cancer factsheets series produced by the JRC in collaboration with the European Network of Cancer Registries provide an overview of the cancer disease burden in EU-27.

Legal base

One of the roles of the EU is to support national policies by helping countries to tackle shared challenges, such as the burden of chronic diseases like cancer.

In 2003, the Council of the EU identified the adoption of European guidelines as key for ensuring the development of effective cancer screening programmes in the EU. Those Council Recommendations on cancer screening, in fact, advise national, population-based screening programmes for breast, colorectal and cervical cancer, along with other principles of best practice in their early detection. To support EU countries, the Commission has produced guidelines to assure quality screening of all three types of cancers and complementary recommendations on diagnosis.

In 2008, the European Parliament and Council further reinforced the request to support Member States in their efforts to fight cancer.

As such, the Commission, namely the European Commission's Directorate General for Health and Food Safety together with the Joint Research Centre, have established the European Commission Initiatives on Breast Cancer and Colorectal Cancer to provide evidence-based guidelines for cancer screening and diagnosis, reflecting the latest scientific developments, together with associated quality assurance schemes for implementation in healthcare settings. 

One of the flagship initiatives of the Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan (launched in February 2021) refers to the new European Commission Knowledge Centre on Cancer (KCC). Operated by the Joint Research Centre, the overall vision of the KCC is to provide the independent, scientific evidence base, as well as the systems, portals, and platforms to support the Commission’s actions on cancer. The European Commission Initiatives on Breast and Colorectal Cancer fall under the activities of the KCC.

Related documents and links:


The main objective of the initiatives is to provide essential levels of quality care that are equally accessible across Europe, by:

  1. Developing evidence-based guidelines for (prevention), screening and diagnosis of colorectal cancer.
  2. Developing a voluntary quality assurance scheme for colorectal cancer services covering primary prevention, screening, diagnosis and care.