Cancer Research UK on Google+ Cancer Research UK on Facebook Cancer Research UK on Twitter
 

Cancer incidence by age

Incidence statistics for all cancers combined  by age at diagnosis are presented here.  There are also data on incidence in age groups and trends by age. 

On this page 'all cancers combined' includes all malignant neoplasms excluding non-melanoma skin cancer (NMSC). NMSCs are often excluded from cancer statistics because they are extremely common and registration is known to be incomplete. The ICD codes for all cancers combined are ICD-10 C00-C97 excluding C44.

The latest incidence statistics available for all cancers in the UK are 2011. Find out why these are the latest statistics available.

Cancer incidence by age

Cancer is primarily a disease of older people, with incidence rates increasing with age for most cancers (Figure 3.1).1-4 More than a third (36% in the UK in 2009-2011) of cancers are diagnosed in people aged 75 and over.

Figure 3.1: All Cancers (C00-C97 Excl. C44) Average Number of New Cases per Year and Age-Specific Incidence Rates, UK, 2009-2011

cases_crude_all.swf

Download this chart XLS (60KB) PPT (146KB) PDF (37KB)

Excluding non-melanoma skin cancer.

section reviewed 14/01/14
section updated 14/01/14

Most common cancers by age

The five most common cancers in males and females vary considerably by age group (Figures 3.2 and 3.3).1-7

Figure 3.2: The Five Most Commonly Diagnosed Cancers in Males, Average Percentages and Numbers of New Cases, by Age, UK, 2009-2011

incidence-stacked-age-males

X

  

Among males in the UK, in the age group  , there was an average of   cases of   per year between 2009 and 2011.

  Children (0-14) Teenagers and Young Adults (15-24) Adults (25-49) Adults (50-74) Elderly (75+)
Brain, other central nervous system and intracranial tumours 218.667 142.0 962.00    
Leukaemia 262.333 109.0      
sympathetic nervous system tumours 43.333        
Hodgkin lymphoma          
Soft tissue sarcoma 57.000        
Lymphomas 115.333 230.0      
Carcinomas   98.0      
Germ cell tumours   282      
testicular cancer     1610    
Malignant Melanoma     1209.00    
Bowel cancer     1042.00 12893 8959.0
Non-Hodgkin lymphoma     867.00 3590  
Prostate cancer       26403 15102.0
Lung cancer       12907 10120.0
Kidney cancer       3535  
Stomach cancer         2231.0
Bladder cancer         3812.0
Other types of cancer 158.667 197.0 5812.00 33574 20606.0
TOTAL 855 1058.0 11090.00 92902 60828.0

Download this chart CR Xls Icon XLS (104KB) CR PPT Icon PPT (171KB) CR PDF Icon PDF (38KB)

Excluding non-melanoma skin cancer. Percentages may not sum to 100% due to rounding. 
CNS: Central nervous system. 
NHL: Non-Hodgkin lymphoma. 
SNS: Sympathetic nervous system.
Brain tumours: brain, other central nervous system (CNS) and intracranial tumours, including malignant, benign and uncertain or unknown behaviour tumours. 
For all age groups the percentage denominator is all cancers combined (C00-C97 excl. C44), except for children and teenagers and young adults where the percentage denominator also includes benign and uncertain or unknown brain, other CNS and intracranial tumours. 
The proportions of childhood cancers are for children diagnosed with cancer during 2006-2008 in Great Britain. 
The proportions of teenage and young adult cancers are for 15-24 year-olds diagnosed with cancer during 2000-2009 in the UK.

Figure 3.3: The Five Most Commonly Diagnosed Cancers in Females, Average Percentages and Numbers of New Cases, by Age, UK, 2009-2011

incidence-stacked-age-females

X

  

Among females in the UK, in the age group  , there was an average of   cases of   per year between 2009 and 2011.

  Children (0-14) Teenagers and Young Adults (15-24) Adults (25-49) Adults (50-74) Elderly (75+)
Brain, other central nervous system and intracranial tumours 193.0 133 1025    
Leukaemia 205.3 69      
Lymphomas 51.3 192      
Carcinomas   295      
Soft tissue sarcoma 41.0        
Malignant Melanoma   153 1965    
Bowel cancer      /td> 8427 8721
Renal tumours 44.0        
Lung cancer       10144 8526
Breast cancer     9792 27672 12054
Cervical cancer     1869    
Ovarian cancer     1101 3841  
Uterine cancer       5601  
Non-Hodgkin lymphoma         2093
Pancreas         2295
Other types of cancer 165.0 114 6662 26111 23532
TOTAL 699.66667 956 21747 81794 57221

Download this chart CR Xls Icon XLS (106KB) CR PPT Icon PPT (171KB) CR PDF Icon PDF (39KB)

Excluding non-melanoma skin cancer. Percentages may not sum to 100% due to rounding. 
CNS:Central nervous system. 
NHL: Non-Hodgkin lymphoma. 
SNS: Sympathetic nervous system. 
Brain tumours: brain, other central nervous system (CNS) and intracranial tumours, including malignant, benign and uncertain or unknown behaviour tumours. 
For all age groups the percentage denominator is all cancers combined (C00-C97 excl. C44), except for children and teenagers and young adults where the percentage denominator also includes benign and uncertain or unknown brain, other CNS and intracranial tumours. 
The proportions of childhood cancers are for children diagnosed with cancer during 2006-2008 in Great Britain. 
The proportions of teenage and young adult cancers are for 15-24 year-olds diagnosed with cancer during 2000-2009 in the UK.

section reviewed 14/01/14
section updated 14/01/14

Children aged 0-14

Cancer is relatively rare in children, with this age group accounting for less than one per cent of all new cancer cases (UK 2009-2011).1-4 An average of 862 and 713 cases per year were diagnosed in boys and girls, respectively, in the UK between 2009 and 2011. These totals include benign and uncertain or unknown behaviour brain, other CNS and intracranial tumours.

Around 1 in 500 children develop cancer by age 14 years in Great Britain.6 Leukaemia is the most common childhood cancer (Figures 3.2 and 3.3), accounting for around a third of all cases (31% and 29% in boys and girls, respectively) in Great Britain between 2006 and 2008.5

section reviewed 14/01/14
section updated 14/01/14

Teenagers and young adults aged 15-24

Cancer is also relatively rare in teenagers and young adults, accounting for less than one per cent of all new cancer cases (UK, 2009-2011).1-4 An average of 1,153 and 1,081 cases per year were diagnosed in males and females, respectively, in the UK between 2009 and 2011.1-4 These totals include benign and uncertain or unknown behaviour brain, other CNS and intracranial tumours.

Germ cell tumours (such as testicular germ cell tumours) are the most common cancers in men aged 15-24 (Figure 3.2), accounting for more than a quarter (27%) of the total in the UK between 2000 and 2009.7 Carcinomas (such as of the thyroid, cervix, bowel and ovary) are the most common cancers in women aged 15-24 (Figure 3.3), accounting for 31% of the total.

section reviewed 14/01/14
section updated 14/01/14

Adults aged 25-49

Adults aged 25-49 contribute around a tenth (10%) of all new cancer cases (UK, 2009-2011).1-4 There are almost twice as many cases in women aged 25-49 (an average of 21,747 cases per year in the UK between 2009 and 2011) compared with men of the same age (11,090). However, this difference can be attributed to the high incidence of breast cancer in women, which accounts for 45% of all cancers among women in this age group (Figure 3.3). The vast majority of these breast cancers will be diagnosed once they have caused symptoms, since most women aged 25-49 are too young for routine breast screening.

Other common cancers for females in this age group are malignant melanoma and cervical cancer (9% each), though many more cervical cancers will have been prevented though cervical screening. It is estimated that cervical screening saves up to 5,000 lives each year in the UK,8 preventing between 45% and 75% of cervical cancer cases in women who attend regularly.9

The most common cancers in men aged 25-49 (Figure 3.2) are testicular (15%), malignant melanoma (11%) and bowel (9%) (UK, 2009-2011).1-4 Prostate cancer contributes only 4% of the total in men in this age group. 

section reviewed 14/01/14
section updated 14/01/14

Adults aged 50-74

Over half (53%) of all cancers are diagnosed in adults aged 50-74 (UK, 2009-2011). However, there are more cases in this group than in the elderly (in whom rates are higher), because there are more 50-74 year-olds in the population.1-4 Slightly more cases are diagnosed in males (an average of 92,902 per year in the UK between 2009 and 2011) than in females (81,794) in this age group.

Prostate cancer accounts for more than a quarter (28%) of cases diagnosed in men aged 50-74 (Figure 3.2).1-4 Lung and bowel cancers each contribute 14% of the male total. 

Around a third (34%) of cases diagnosed in females aged 50-74 are breast cancers (Figure 3.3),1-4 many of which are diagnosed through screening. Lung and bowel cancers account for 12% and 10% of cases, respectively. 

Many bowel cancers in this age group will have been detected through bowel screening.

section reviewed 14/01/14
section updated 14/01/14

Elderly aged 75+

Over a third (36%) of all cancers are diagnosed in the elderly (UK, 2009-2011).1-4 However, incidence rates peak in the elderly for most cancers, because there are fewer people of this age in the population compared with other age groups (Figure 3.1). Slightly more cases are diagnosed in males (an average of 60,828 per year in the UK between 2009 and 2011) than in females (57,221). 

A quarter (25%) of cancers in elderly men are prostate cancers (Figure 3.2).1-4 Lung and bowel cancers contribute 17% and 15% of cases in this age group, respectively.

Breast (21%), bowel (15%) and lung (15%) cancers are the most common in elderly women (Figure 3.3).1-4

section reviewed 14/01/14
section updated 14/01/14

Trends by age

 Incidence rates for all cancers combined have overall increased for all of the broad age groups in Great Britain since the mid-1970s (Figure 3.4).1-3 The largest increase has been in the 75+ age group, with European age-standardised (AS) incidence rates increasing by 44% between 1975-1977 and 2009-2011, though the pace of increase has slowed in the last decade. In other age groups the rise has been slightly smaller, but steadier. The smallest increase has been in people aged 25-49, in whom rates increased by 31% between 1975-1977 and 2009-2011.

Figure 3.4: All Cancers Excluding Non-Melanoma Skin Cancer (C00-C97 Excl. C44), European Age-Standardised Incidence Rates, By Age, Great Britain, 1975-2011

inc_asr_age_p_all.swf

Download this chart XLS (53KB) PPT (137KB) PDF (283KB)

section reviewed 14/01/14
section updated 14/01/14

No Error

Rate this page:
Submit rating
Rated 4 out of 5 based on 7 votes
Rate this page
Rate this page for no comments box
Please enter feedback to continue submitting
Send feedback
Question about cancer? Contact our information nurse team

Visit our A-Z topic pages

 

References for cancer incidence by age

  1. Data were provided by the Office for National Statistics on request, July 2013. Similar data can be found here: http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/rel/vsob1/cancer-statistics-registrations--england--series-mb1-/index.html
  2. Data were provided by ISD Scotland on request, May 2013. Similar data can be found here: http://www.isdscotland.org/Health-Topics/Cancer/Publications/index.asp
  3. Data were provided by the Welsh Cancer Intelligence and Surveillance Unit on request, June 2013. Similar data can be found here: http://www.wales.nhs.uk/sites3/page.cfm?orgid=242&pid=59080
  4. Data were provided by the Northern Ireland Cancer Registry on request, June 2013. Similar data can be found here: http://www.qub.ac.uk/research-centres/nicr/CancerData/OnlineStatistics
  5. Childhood Cancer Research Group. (Accessed December 2012)
  6. Stiller CA. Childhood cancer in Britain: Incidence, survival, mortality. Oxford: Oxford University Press; 2007.
  7. North West Cancer Intelligence Service (NWCIS). Personal communication.
  8. Peto J, Gilham C, Fletcher O, et al. The cervical cancer epidemic that screening has prevented in the UK. Lancet 2004;364:249-56.
  9. Sasieni P, Castanon A, Cuzick J. Effectiveness of cervical screening with age: population based case-control study of prospectively recorded data. BMJ 2009;339:b2968.
  10. National Cancer Intelligence Network, Cancer Research UK, Leeds Metropolitan University, Men’s Health Forum. The Excess Burden of Cancer in Men in the UK. London: 2009. 
  11. White AK, Thomson CS, Forman D, et al. Men's Health and the Excess Burden of Cancer in Men. Eur Urol Suppl 2010;9:467-70.
  12. Delongchamps NB, Wang CY, Chandan V, et al. Pathological Characteristics of Prostate Cancer in Elderly Men. J Urol 2009;182:927-30.
  13. Sun L, Caire AA, Robertson CN, et al. Men Older Than 70 Years Have Higher Risk Prostate Cancer and Poorer Survival in the Early and Late Prostate Specific Antigen Eras. J Urol 2009;182:2242-9.
  14. Holmes CE, Muss HB. Diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer in the elderly. CA Cancer J Clin 2003;53:227-44.
Updated: 14 January 2014