Lung cancer survival rates improving

In collaboration with the Press Association

The number of people surviving lung cancer for at least one year has almost doubled over the last 20 years, according to figures from the National Cancer Intelligence Network (NCIN).

"Trends in lung cancer incidence rates reflect past trends in cigarette smoking - many men quit smoking from the 1950s onwards, so we are now seeing the positive impact of that." - Nick Ormiston-Smith, Cancer Research UK

Experts say the rise is down to improved treatments and earlier diagnosis, but that more needs to be done to improve the outlook for lung cancer patients.

The data also show that fewer men are getting lung cancer, but the incidence in women is rising.

Nick Ormiston-Smith, Cancer Research UK's head of statistics, said: "It's great news that lung cancer in men has fallen by more than a third since the early 1990s.

"Trends in lung cancer incidence rates reflect past trends in cigarette smoking - many men quit smoking from the 1950s onwards, so we are now seeing the positive impact of that.

"Unfortunately this smoking fall didn't occur for women until later - after they had become the core targets of the tobacco industry's marketing strategy, so their lung cancer rates are still increasing.

"We also know that starting smoking at a young age greatly increases the risk of lung cancer."

Between 1990 and 2011, almost 720,000 people were diagnosed with lung cancer in England.

The data show that 17 per cent of lung cancer patients diagnosed in 1990 were alive one year later, compared with 29 per cent of men and 33 per cent of women diagnosed in 2010.

A recent campaign encouraging people with a cough lasting longer than three weeks to go to their GP was credited with improving diagnosis rates, with 700 extra lung cancers picked up in 2012 compared with 2011.

Dr Mick Peake, clinical lead at Public Health England’s NCIN, said: "This report shows that we are gradually making inroads into improving the survival from this common cancer. The improvement in survival in lung cancer has been dramatic over the last 20 years with almost twice as many patients alive a year after diagnosis now as was the case in 1990.

“I think this reflects a combination of the better organisation of cancer services, the availability of better treatments and earlier diagnosis.

"Our one-year survival figures show that we are now approaching the outcomes of those other countries where the survival has historically been significantly better than in England.”

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