updated 12/21/2010 7:57:41 PM ET 2010-12-22T00:57:41

Cancer patients in Australia, Canada and Sweden had a better chance of surviving for five years than those in Denmark and the U.K. in recent years, a new study says.

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Researchers tracked 2.4 million cancer patients in Australia, Canada, Denmark, Norway, Sweden and the U.K. from 1995 to 2007. They focused on patients with cancers of the breast, lung, colon, rectum and ovary.

Scientists found the difference in death rates in the U.K compared with a country like Sweden equated to 11,400 more deaths in the U.K. every year. The study was published online Wednesday in the medical journal Lancet.

Survival rates rose everywhere, but were highest in Australia, Canada and Sweden. Norway came in the middle, while Denmark and the U.K. had the worst survival rates.

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For breast cancer, for example, about 82 percent of women in the U.K. and Denmark were alive five years after being diagnosed in 2007. In Australia and Sweden, about 90 percent of breast cancer patients were still alive five years later.

Sir Michael Richards of England's health department, and co-authors wrote that delayed diagnosis and treatment in Denmark and the U.K. might explain why British and Danish patients died earlier than patients elsewhere.

Previous studies in the U.K. have shown women with breast cancer had fewer surgeries and got less radiation treatment compared with other European countries.

"We still have a lot of work to do," said Sara Hiom, director of health information at Cancer Research U.K., in a statement. "It's vital to retain a focus on early diagnosis and on improving equitable access to treatment."

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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