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Thursday, 28 February, 2002, 12:27 GMT
Cancer cases on the rise
breast cancer
A rise in breast cancer rates is continuing
The number of cancer diagnoses in England has jumped by 2%, according to official figures released on Thursday.

However, while the number of new cases is jumping, survival rates are also on the rise for many common cancers.

In all, 216,700 people in England were told they had cancer in 1998, an increase of just over 5,000 cases compared with 1997.

There was also a 2,000 case rise between 1996 and 1997.

Much of this was due to a rise in the number of women diagnosed with breast cancer, which rose by 4% over the year.

The number of prostate cancer cases also rose over the last 12 months.

Cervical progress

However, there was a drop in the number of cervical cancer cases registered in the 1990s.

The rate is 40% lower than it was in 1990, mainly due to the fact that, due to cervical screening, many women have pre-cancerous cells rather than full-blown cancer detected.

This not only makes them easier to treat, but reduces the statistics for cervical cancer cases.

Doctors are unsure why there has been such a pronounced increase in the number of breast cancer cases.

Breast cancer has now overtaken lung cancer as the most common in England - with more than 32,000 cases in 1998.

Lung threat

Lung cancer, however, has a much lower survival rate, so remains the biggest killer, even though falls in smoking rates have reduced its incidence.

Some say it could be partly blamed on the fact that many women are choosing to delay having their first child.

Studies suggest that having a first baby in your late 20s or 30s onwards does increase the overall risk of developing breast cancer.

However, there are other factors, such as fluctuating hormones, which may be contributory.

In the case of prostate cancers, the rise in registrations is likely to be mainly due to improved detection rates and awareness of the disease among men.

Many more tumours are being found before they have spread to cause illness - indeed, some of them, in older men, may never cause any problems.

Dr Lesley Walker, from Cancer Research UK, said that the main reason why more people were being diagnosed with cancer was that they were living longer - and giving more opportunity for the disease to develop.

She said: "Cancer is a disease of old age, and we have an ageing population, and increasing numbers of vulnerable people.

"Modern lifestyles can also increase cancer risk - too much high-calorie food, and too little exercise."

See also:

18 Dec 01 | Health
Child cancer rates 'increasing'
14 Dec 01 | Health
Cancer risk prompts HRT call
11 Dec 01 | Health
'Postcode' cancer care remains
15 Nov 01 | Health
Can women avoid cancer?
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