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Last Updated: Thursday, 28 April, 2005, 08:57 GMT 09:57 UK
Worldwide cancer cases 'double'
Breast tumour
A million women are diagnosed with breast cancer annually
Breast and lung cancer incidence has doubled around the world over the last 30 years, a report shows.

Cancer Research UK said much of the growth was due to more people living longer - as cancer is a disease which usually affects older people.

But they said habits such as smoking and diet also had a significant effect.

They said the analysis showed which populations were at more risk of certain cancers, pointing towards ways of tackling those forms of the disease.

One example is bowel cancer which used to be extremely rare in Japan. But as the Japanese increasingly eat a westernised diet, rates of the cancer increase.

Developing world warning

Since 1975, the world's population has grown from around four billion to an estimated 6.3 billion.

The proportion of the global population aged 60 or more currently stands at 10%, but is predicted to increase to 22% by 2050, Cancer Research says.

For the UK, the report showed that even though the overall incidence of cancer was rising, death rates were falling thanks to earlier diagnosis and better treatment.

Many more people diagnosed with cancer in 2005 will survive compared to those diagnosed in 1975
Professor John Toy, Cancer Research UK

The researchers looked at the incidence of 27 different cancers, but highlighted the rises seen in two commonest cancers; breast and lung.

More than 1.1 million cases of breast cancer are now diagnosed across the world each year, the research showed, compared with about 500,000 cases in 1975.

They said most of the increase could be explained by the increased life expectancy of women worldwide, together with the growing population.

Lung cancer is now the most commonly diagnosed cancer, with around 1.4 million new cases being identified each year.

Fewer than 600,000 cases were diagnosed in 1975.

The increase has been linked to the rise in smoking.

Countries such as the UK, where smoking has declined among men and peaked among women, are seeing big falls in lung cancer rates.

But increases in incidence of the disease is predicted over the next 20 years in areas of the world where smoking prevalence has increased - such as eastern Africa, central America and south east Asia.

However rates of stomach cancer, which was the most common type of cancer in 1975, are falling due to improved home hygiene and food preservation.

Researchers said screening programmes in the industrialised world had also significantly reduced the number of women being diagnosed with cervical cancer - although the disease is becoming more prevalent in the fast-growing populations of developing countries.

Survival 'up'

Professor John Toy, Cancer Research UK's Medical Director said: "These statistics show that cancer is still essentially a major disease of the developed world.

"Only 4% of deaths in Africa are due to cancer, compared to 19% in Europe."

He said the developing world could "learn from past mistakes".

"Tackling the smoking habit, for example, would minimise future lung cancer cases and substantially reduce the future cancer burden in developing countries.

"Although these figures show a persistent increase in the number of people in the world being diagnosed with cancer, developing and refining new treatments will continue to improve the chances of surviving the disease.

"Already, thanks to such research, many more people diagnosed with cancer in 2005 will survive compared to those diagnosed in 1975."

Jessica Corner of Macmillan Cancer Relief said: "News that cases of lung and breast cancer continue to increase is a cause for worry, especially since so much work has been done to promote awareness of these cancers."


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