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Cancer prevalence

Estimated cancer prevalence, also known as the number of cancer survivors, for the UK is presented here. 

Find out more about the coding and counting of this data.


What is prevalence?

Whilst cancer incidence refers to the number of new cancer cases arising in a specified period of time, cancer prevalence refers to the number of people who have previously received a diagnosis of cancer and who are still alive at a presented time point. Some of these patients will have been cured and others will not. Therefore prevalence reflects both the incidence of cancer and its associated survival pattern.

section reviewed 20/04/11
section updated 20/04/11

Overall cancer prevalence

In 2008, it was estimated that there are just over two million people living with or beyond cancer in the UK who had previously been diagnosed, and this is predicted to rise by more than 3% a year.1 Prevalence figures are influenced by both incidence and survival. Thus, the most prevalent types of cancer are those with a relatively high incidence rate and a good prognosis. In the UK the most prevalent cancer in males is prostate cancer and in females it is breast cancer.

The latest analysis shows that at the end of 2006, there were over 200,000 prevalent cancer patients in the UK who were alive one year after their diagnosis. In total, there were 1.13 million cancer survivors in the UK who were alive up to 10 years from diagnosis at the end of 2006.2

These latest estimates are much higher than previous forecasts of cancer prevalence. This is mainly because incidence has been rising whilst the death rates have continued to fall, leading to better survival. This trend is expected to continue over the coming years as a result of a number of factors, including an ageing population, earlier detection of cancer and continued improvements in treatment.

The data analysed are for all malignant neoplasms diagnosed between 1997 and 2006, and registered by the eight cancer registries in England and the registries of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Table 7.1 shows one, five and ten year prevalence, by sex, for all cancers excluding non-melanoma skin cancer (NMSC).

Table 7.1: Overall cancer prevalence in the UK (exc NMSC) at 31st Dec 2006

1 Year Prevalence 5 Year Prevalence 10 Year Prevalence
Male 98,726 339,971 507,840
Female 101,796 382,030 622,875
Persons 200,522 722,001 1,130,715

Download this table XLS (30KB) PPT (120KB) PDF (17KB)

Prevalence data for specific types of cancer can be found using the Types of cancer pages. Where available, prevalence data will be present as a section on the Incidence pages.

section reviewed 20/04/11
section updated 20/04/11

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References for cancer prevalence

  1. J Maddams, D Brewster, A Gavin, et al. Cancer Prevalence in the United Kingdom: estimates for 2008. Br J Cancer 2009; 101(3):541–547.
  2. National Cancer Intelligence Network (NCIN). One, Five and Ten Year Cancer Prevalence. Accessed June 2010.
Updated: 4 May 2011