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Tuesday, 27 February, 2001, 16:07 GMT
Big rise in cancer cases
Radiotherapy
Cancer is the UK's number one killer
Cancer has become public enemy number one in England and Wales over the last 30 years, official figures show.

Data from National Statistics show that the incidence of cancer has risen by around 20% in men and 30% in women since 1970.

The report says that part of the recorded increase may simply be due to better detection of cases.

But the upwards trend is in sharp contrast to other killers such as heart disease, stroke and infectious diseases, which are now killing less people.

More people now die from cancer than from other major causes of death.

Between 1950 and 1999, the proportion of deaths due to cancer rose from 15% to 27% for men and from 16% to 23% for women, according to the study.

One in three

One in three people will develop cancer during their life and one in four people will die from the disease.

It is estimated that about 600,000 women and 365,000 men in England and Wales have been diagnosed with cancer, and are currently living with the disease.

People living in more deprived areas are at greater risk of dying from smoking-related cancers.

The report found that cancer occurs mainly in old people and the numbers of cases rise more quickly with age in women than in men owing largely to cancers of the breast and cervix.

In men, under 3% of cases occur in those under 40, and 19% in those under 60, while for women the figures are 6% and 28%.

The risk of women developing breast cancer and men developing prostate cancer is greater in more affluent areas.

Survival from some cancers, such as melanoma of the skin and testicular cancer, has improved dramatically since the early 1970s.

However, survival from some of the highly fatal cancers such as those of the lung and pancreas has shown little change.

The study showed that women have higher survival than men for many cancers and for most cancers, survival is lower in patients who are older when they are diagnosed.

But for most of the common cancers, survival in Britain is lower than in several comparable European countries.

The position compared with the United States is even worse.

Encouraging developments

Dr Peter Sasieni, Head of Mathematics & Statistics at Imperial Cancer Research Fund, said overall trends in cancer mortality were "extremely encouraging".

"Although cancer was left behind when the rates of heart disease and stroke fell in the 1960s, 70s and 80s, the last decade has seen a 15% reduction in cancer mortality rates in both men and women.

"The reasons for this improvement include a reduction in smoking in men, better treatment of breast cancer, earlier detection of bowel cancer and cervical screening.

"The overall effect is that some 23,000 fewer people died of cancer in 1999 than would have at the 1989 rates."

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See also:

09 Nov 00 | Health
Cancer: Number one killer
01 Jun 00 | Health
Cancer guru defends UK record
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