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Friday, July 3, 1998 Published at 16:30 GMT 17:30 UK


Cancer on the retreat

Cancer treatments have proved effective

Greater public awareness and improved medical treatments have combined to produce a fall in the number of newly diagnosed cancer cases.

Between 1992 and 1997, the number of new cases in England and Wales fell from 219,000 to 209,000. Of those diagnosed in 1997, about 103,000 were men and 106,000 were women.

Cervical cancer showed the biggest improvement, a drop of 26% over the five-year period.

Both the most common male and female cancers - lung and breast cancer- also showed substantial falls. Male lung cancer incidence dropped by 19% and female breast cancer by 9%.

Cancer experts welcomed the new data from the Office for National Statistics.

Really good news

Professor Karol Sikora, medical adviser for the Imperial Cancer Research Fund, said: "These figures are really good news for the nation. They prove that public health measures being put into practice combined with effective medical treatments are having a real impact on cancer."

He said the success of smear tests probably played a major part in reducing cervical cancer rates.

Changing smoking habits were likely to be the reason why male lung cancer incidence had fallen so significantly, said Professor Sikora.

An increasing awareness of the importance of a healthy diet and lifestyle had probably played a "crucial role" in reducing the incidence of bowel and rectal cancer.

Professor Sikora said the introduction of breast cancer screening in 1988 had initially brought about a sharp increase in the number of cases of the disease diagnosed. This was now levelling out.

Bucking the trend

[ image: Cancer cases are falling]
Cancer cases are falling
Prostate cancer was one exception to the general trend, showing an increase from 15,800 cases in 1992 to 17,000 in 1997. However, this may be partly due to men living longer, since the disease mainly affects the elderly.

Last month, another report from the Office for National Statistics, produced in conjunction with the ICRF, showed that more people were being cured of cancer.

Between 1981 and 1989, the proportion of cancer patients surviving more than five years after diagnosis rose from 25% to 30% in England and Wales. The improvement translated to about 10,000 extra lives saved each year, although the survival rates were still not as good as in many other European countries and the United States.

Someone who survives five years after being diagnosed with cancer is regarded as effectively cured.

Encouraging evidence

Professor Peter Selby, head of clinical research at the ICRF, said: "We are very pleased to see reduced numbers of new cancer patients which adds to the encouraging evidence that survival from cancer in the UK has improved in recent years.

"Hopefully, further improvements can come from more comprehensive research and the implementation of existing treatments."

The three most common cancers for men were lung, prostate and colo-rectal and for women they were breast, colo-rectal and lung.

Cancers were most common in the 65 and over age group for both sexes.

Only 5% of all cancers in males and 8% in females occurred among the under 45s.

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