WHERE you live can make a huge difference to your chances of surviving cancer.

This was the rather depressing verdict of a global 'postcode lottery' which found the UK lagging well behind its international counterparts.

The results are arguably a kick in the teeth to UK cancer patients and their loved ones because it appears to demonstrate how much better the NHS could be doing if only we had more resources, quicker access to diagnosis or more effective treatments.

Crucially, the Lancet study compared seven high-income nations - the UK, Ireland, Australia, Canada, Denmark, New Zealand, Australia and Norway - which all shared "universal access to, and comparable expenditure on, healthcare".

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For patients diagnosed between 1995 and 2014, one- and five-year survival rates were assessed for seven types of cancer: lung, stomach, colon, rectum, pancreas, ovary, and oesophagus.

The results were stark. Pancreatic cancer patients in Australia were nearly twice as likely to be alive five years after diagnosis than they were in the UK - 14.6 per cent compared to 7.9%.

In fact, Australia had the best five-year survival rates in five out of the seven cancers, only beaten by Norway in relation to ovarian cancer and Canada for lung cancer.

The UK, meanwhile, ranked worst for five-year survival in stomach, colon, rectal, pancreatic and lung cancer.

Furthermore, between 1995 and 2016 Australia cut its death rate from cancer by 31% compared to 20% in Scotland.

So what is Australia doing differently? Frustratingly, it is not entirely clear.

Health spending in Australia is roughly the same as the UK, at 9.6% of GDP, so funding alone is not the answer - although Australia does differ from the NHS in including an element of private insurance.

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Early diagnosis is vital. In Australia, increased investment in training saw the number of practising radiologists - specialist doctors who analyse scans for signs of cancer - increase by 75%, to 2,013, between 2000 and 2016.

This took the ratio of radiologists working in Australia's health service to 87 per million population.

However, that is not massively different from the UK where the ratio is currently running at around 84 radiologists per million.

Waiting times for cancer treatment have been deteriorating in Scotland, but mostly due to delays at the diagnosis stage.

Once a decision to treat is taken, around half of patients in Scotland start therapy within five days, compared to eight to 10 days in Australia.

There is no doubt that Scotland, and the rest of the UK, could be doing better on cancer.

But studies like the Lancet one this week only tell half the story. We need to know exactly why our survival rates are poorer - only then can we do anything to fix them.