Page last updated at 23:02 GMT, Thursday, 9 July 2009 00:02 UK

Common cancer deaths 'falling'

Lung cancer
Better treatment and smoking trends are behind falling death rates

The number of people dying from three of the most common cancers has fallen to its lowest level in nearly 40 years, figures show.

UK death rates from breast, bowel, and male lung cancer are at their lowest since 1971.

The fall in deaths, compiled by Cancer Research UK, is being put down to improved screening and better care.

Experts said the decline in smoking had also played a key part in the drop in lung cancer.


Harpal Kumar, chief executive of Cancer Research UK, said: "Years of research are behind the dramatic progress being made in the fight against Britain's common cancers.

"Survival rates have doubled in the last 30 years."

Breast cancer deaths among women peaked in 1989 at 15,625, but dropped to 11,990 in 2007, according to the data.

Bowel cancer deaths among both sexes peaked in 1992 at 19,598, but fell to 16,007 in 2007.

Meanwhile, the number of men dying from lung cancer peaked in 1979 at 30,391, but dropped to 19,637 in 2007.

The figures come despite the rising number of diagnoses because of the ageing population.

Latest figures show that 100,000 new cases are identified each year among these types of cancer alone.

Professor Mike Richards, the National Cancer Director, said: "We welcome this news that demonstrates the excellent progress the NHS is making in improving survival for people with cancer.

"We have made major progress on cancer over the past decade but we are not complacent.

"We invested £4.35bn in cancer services in 2006/07, over 5% of all NHS spending.

"The Cancer Reform Strategy, published in December 2007, builds on this progress and includes measures to improve cancer prevention, speed up the diagnosis and treatment of cancer, reduce inequalities, improve the experience of people living with and beyond cancer, ensure care is delivered in the most appropriate settings and that patients can access effective new treatments quickly."

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