Fewer dying of cancer while incidence remains stable

Cancer Research UK

New statistics reveal that fewer middle-aged people are dying of cancer, while the number of new cases is stable. The findings will be presented at the Britain Against Cancer conference today (Thursday 24th Nov 2005).

The figures - published by Cancer Research UK and the UK Association of Cancer Registries (UKACR) - reveal that lung, breast, bowel and prostate cancers will continue to be the most common types by far. But the incidence of some less common cancers is increasing.

This is the first time that incidence trend data have been available over a ten-year period for the whole of the UK.

A team led by Professor David Forman, Cancer Research UK researcher at the University of Leeds and Chair of the UKACR, analysed the latest trends among people aged between 35 and 69. By highlighting cancer trends in people currently in middle age, the figures give an insight into the types of cancer that will pose the biggest future threats as this group continues to age.

Overall, cancer incidence rates have remained stable among 35 to 69 year olds. But death rates have fallen by around 2.4 per cent each year over the past ten years.

The number of people dying of bowel cancer has fallen considerably. Rates fell by 22 per cent in men and 26 per cent in women. And mortality from breast cancer fell by a quarter over the past ten years, in spite of an increase in incidence.

Professor Forman says: “It’s very important to look at cancer trends in younger adults, so we can see how the spectrum of cancer is changing. Having 10-year data has enabled us to do this for the first time for the UK as a whole.

“The statistics confirm that the current four major cancers - lung, breast, bowel and prostate - will continue to dominate in the future.

“They also show that thousands fewer people are dying of cancer every year. The global cancer research effort has led to many important gains.”

Prostate cancer incidence has more than doubled in 10 years. The dramatic rise in the incidence of prostate cancer is due largely to the increase in PSA testing. While the PSA test leads to greater detection of all prostate cancers, it also identifies cases which may not become a clinical problem for some men.

The number of new cases of lung cancer in women is falling in 35 to 69 year olds. This indicates that we are approaching the peak of lung cancer cases in women of all ages. Lung cancer rates are already falling in men.

Professor Forman adds: “There will be little change in how cancers are ranked at the top of the incidence table. But it also emerges that cancers that have previously received less attention - such as cancers of the mouth and malignant melanoma - are likely to become more prominent in the future.”

The incidence of mouth cancer increased by 23 per cent in men and 24 per cent in women. Cancer Research UK last week launched a new campaign - called Open Up to Mouth Cancer - to raise awareness of the disease and its early signs.

The number of melanomas diagnosed in the UK continues to rise. Incidence rates increased by 35 per cent in men and by 22 per cent in women.

There is good news for the incidence of other cancers.

Cervical cancer incidence and mortality have fallen by over a third. This is mainly due to the ability of screening and simple treatment of pre-malignancy to prevent the disease altogether.

Death rates for stomach cancer have dropped by 39 per cent in men and by 45 per cent in women. The dramatic improvement reflects changes in the way food is preserved and the eradication of Helicobacter pylori, through antibiotic use and improved social conditions.

Professor Forman adds: “Stomach cancer used to be the most common form of cancer death in the UK. The falls in incidence and death rates for the disease are very striking.”

Professor John Toy, Medical Director of Cancer Research UK, says: “Determining the cancers affecting people in middle age provides a snapshot of our future challenges.

“It is very encouraging that death rates are falling for so many cancers. We are reaping the benefits of numerous improvements in early detection and treatment gained over many years.

“Half of cancers could be prevented by changes in lifestyle such as stopping smoking, maintaining a healthy body weight and a healthy diet, by being SunSmart and by attending screening.

ENDS

For media enquiries, please contact Nick Stewart or Paul Thorne at the Cancer Research UK press office on 020 7061 8317. Out of hours, please contact the duty press officer on 07050 264 059.

Notes to Editor

This study incorporates 10 years of incidence and mortality data from between 1993 and 2003.

Incidence across all cancers has seen a slight increase of 0.2 per cent each year over the past 10 years in people aged 35 to 69.

Half of all cancers could be prevented by changes to lifestyle. Find out more about Cancer Research UK's Reduce the Risk campaign at the Reduce the Risk website.

Visit our CancerHelp UK website for clear, easy to understand information about cancer and cancer treatments.

You can find out more about Cancer Research UK’s Open Up to Mouth Cancer campaign on the Open Up to Mouth Cancer website.

Reductions in mortality for bowel cancer are set to continue with the advent of the NHS bowel screening programme - which is scheduled to be rolled out in England in April 2006 and in Scotland in 2007.

Helicobacter pylori is a bacterium that infects the stomach lining. It is strongly linked to stomach ulcers and significantly raises a person’s risk of stomach cancer.

Britain Against Cancer is hosted by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Cancer. CancerBACUP provides the Secretariat to the All-Party Group. Britain Against Cancer takes place at Church House Westminster on Thursday 24th November at 0930. A conference programme is available from the CancerBACUP press office. For media enquiries on the conference please contact Michelle Rowley on 07973 308346 or Jill Morrell on 020 7920 7220 or jmorrell@cancerbacup.org

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