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Cancer mortality by age

Mortality statistics for all cancers combined by age at death are presented here. There is also a comparison with other causes of death in the UK by age and data on mortality in age groups and trends by age.

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

 

Cancer deaths by age

Cancer is primarily a disease of older people, with mortality rates increasing with age for most cancers (Figure 3.1).1-3 More than three-quarters (77% in the UK in 2009-2011) of cancer deaths occur in those aged 65 and over, and more than half (52%) occur in those aged 75 and over.

Figure 3.1: All Cancers (C00-C97) Average Number of Deaths Per Year and Age-Specific Mortality Rates, UK, 2009-2011

deaths_crude_all.swf

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section reviewed 04/12/13
section updated 04/12/13

 

Cancer deaths compared with other causes of death in the UK by age

Cancer is a leading cause of death in all age groups except for 15-24 year old males. The proportion of deaths attributable to cancer in males ranges from 9% in 15-24 year olds to 41% in 50-74 year olds (Figure 3.2).4-6

Figure 3.2: The 4 Most Common Causes of Death in Males, Average Percentages and Numbers of Deaths, by Age, UK, 2009-2011

mort_causesbyage_male

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Among males in the UK, in the age group  , there was an average of   deaths classified under " " per year between 2009 and 2011, meaning it was the most common cause of death in this age group.

  Children (1-14) Teenagers and Young Adults (15-24) Adults (25-49) Adults (50-74) Elderly (75+)
All cancers (C00-C97) 124 180 2884 37868 41881
Nervous system diseases (G00-G99) 85        
Congenital and genetic diseases (Q00-Q99) 77        
Respiratory diseases (J00-J99) 62     9009 26031
Transport accidents (V01-V99)   436      
Suicide (X60-X84)   340 1741    
Non-transport accidents (W00-X59)   271      
Digestive diseases (K00-K93)     1937 5957  
Coronary heart disease (I20-I25)     1742 17135 26820
Strokes (I60-I69)         13654
All other causes 326 833 8094 22164 48086
All deaths 674 2061 16397 92133 156472

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The percentages do not add up to 100% in some age groups due to rounding. Deaths are presented for 1-14 years only because of the large numbers of deaths that occur in infants (for example, during childbirth or related to immaturity conditions or congenital anomalies). In 2009-11 there was an average of 2,010 deaths per year in males aged under one, and 6 (0.3%) of these were due to malignant cancers (C00-C97).

In females, the proportion of deaths attributable to cancer ranges from 15% in 15-24 year-olds to 49% in 50-74 year-olds (Figure 3.3).4-6 Cancer is responsible for a higher proportion of deaths in females than males for all age groups between 15 and 74. The largest difference between the sexes is seen in 25-49 year-olds, in which the proportion of cancer deaths is 18% in males compared with 39% in females. The relatively high number of breast cancer deaths in women aged 25-49 will explain some of the difference (see Figure 3.5).

Figure 3.3: The 4 Most Common Causes of Death in Females, Average Percentages and Numbers of Deaths, by Age, UK, 2009-2011

mort_causesbyage_female

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Among females in the UK, in the age group  , there was an average of   deaths classified under " " per year between 2009 and 2011, meaning it was the most common cause of death in this age group.

  Children (1-14) Teenagers and Young Adults (15-24) Adults (25-49) Adults (50-74) Elderly (75+)
All cancers (C00-C97) 107 129.333333333333 3740 31135 39825
Congenital and genetic diseases (Q00-Q99) 71        
Coronary heart disease (I20-I25)       5842 27168
Digestive diseases (K00-K93)     1054 4089  
Nervous system diseases (G00-G99) 75 81      
Non-transport accidents (W00-X59)     502    
Respiratory diseases (J00-J99) 63   485 6906 33038
Strokes (I60-I69)         24895
Suicide (X60-X84)   96.6666666666667      
Transport accidents (V01-V99)   114.666666666667      
All other causes 247 448.333333333333 3932 15967 86531
Total Deaths 563 870 9713 63938 211457

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The percentages do not add up to 100% in some age groups due to rounding. Deaths are presented for 1-14 years only because of the large numbers of deaths that occur in infants (for example, during childbirth or related to immaturity conditions or congenital anomalies). In 2009-2011 there was an average of 1,551 deaths per year in females aged under one, and 8 (0.5%) of these were due to malignant cancers (C00-C97).

section reviewed 04/12/13
section updated 04/12/13

Most common causes of cancer deaths by age

Figures 3.4 and 3.5 show the five most common causes of cancer deaths in males and females, respectively, by age group.1-3

Figure 3.4: Most Common Causes of Cancer Death in Males, Average Percentages and Numbers of Deaths, by Age, UK, 2009-2011

Mort-stacked-age-fig3.4

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Among males in the UK, in the age group  , there was an average of   deaths from   per year between 2009 and 2011, meaning it was the  most common cause of cancer death in this age group.

  Children (0-14) Teenagers and young adults (15-24) Adults (25-49) Adults (50-74) Elderly (75+)
Malignant melanoma     154.333333333333    
Oesophageal cancer     197 2834 2078.66666666667
Non-Hodgkin lymphoma   13      
Brain, other central nervous system and intracranial tumours 61.1 35.6666666666667 360    
Leukaemia 59.7 36.3333333333333      
sympathetic nervous system tumours 22.9        
Soft tissue sarcoma 17.7        
Lymphomas 12        
Bone sarcoma   30      
Testicular cancer   6.66666666666667      
Hodgkin lymphoma          
Prostate cancer       2851 7763
Lung cancer     405.666666666667 10144 9032.33333333333
Bowel cancer     288.333333333333 3845 4391.66666666667
Bladder cancer         2216.66666666667
Pancreatic cancer       2121  
Other types of cancer 23.2 59.333 1497 16132 16585
TOTAL 196.6 181.33333 2868 37769 41830.6666666667

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Five most common causes of cancer deaths in males.
Brain & CNS = Brain, other central nervous system and intracranial tumours.
SNS = Sympathetic nervous system.
NHL = Non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
Melanoma = Malignant melanoma.
For all age groups the percentage denominator is all cancer deaths (C00-C97), except for children and teenagers and young adults where the percentage denominator also includes deaths from benign and uncertain or unknown brain, other CNS and intracranial tumours.
For children, the proportions are of deaths in children previously diagnosed with cancer, Great Britain, 1996-2005. 

Figure 3.5: Most Common Causes of Cancer Death in Females, Average Percentages and Numbers of Deaths, by Age, UK, 2009-2011

Mort-stacked-age-fig3.5

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Among females in the UK, in the age group  , there was an average of   deaths from   per year between 2009 and 2011, meaning it was the  most common cause of cancer death in this age group.

  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 50.4 26.6666666666667 231.333333333333    
Leukaemia 45.6 22.6666666666667      
sympathetic nervous system tumours 14.3        
Hodgkin lymphoma   7      
Soft tissue sarcoma 13.7        
Lymphomas 9.8        
Bone sarcoma   15.3333333333333      
Breast Cancer     1206 5131 5295
Lung Cancer     349 7572 7515
Bowel Cancer     240 2384 4511
Cervical Cancer   8 254.333333333333    
Ovarian Cancer       2248 1827
Pancreatic Cancer       1733 2265
Other types of cancer 20.4 50 1475.33333333333 11996 18884
TOTAL 154.2 129.666 3723.33333333333 31055 39774

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Five most common causes of cancer deaths in females.
Brain & CNS = Brain, other central nervous system and intracranial tumours.
SNS = Sympathetic nervous system.
For all age groups the percentage denominator is all cancer deaths (C00-C97), except for children and teenagers and young adults where the percentage denominator also includes deaths from benign and uncertain or unknown brain, other CNS and intracranial tumours.
For children, the proportions are of deaths in children previously diagnosed with cancer, Great Britain, 1996-2005.

section reviewed 04/12/13
section updated 04/12/13

Children aged 0-14

Cancer is the most common cause of death in children, and accounts for less than a fifth of all deaths in boys and girls aged 1-14 years (18% and 19%, respectively) (Figures 3.2 and 3.3).4-6 Despite this, deaths from cancer are still relatively rare in children aged 0-14 years, with less than one per cent (<1%) of the total cancer deaths occurring in this age group.1-3

An average of 132 and 120 cancer deaths per year occurred in boys and girls aged 0-14 years, respectively, in the UK between 2009 and 2011.1-3 Although brain, other central nervous system (CNS) and intracranial tumours rank second in incidence, they are the most common cause of deaths from cancer in childhood (Figures 3.4 and 3.5) and account for around a third of all cancer deaths in boys and girls (31% and 33%, respectively, in Great Britain between 1996 and 2005).7 Certain types of brain tumours, such as primitive neuroectodermal tumours and atypical teratoid/rhabdoid tumours, have some of the lowest survival of all childhood cancers.8 Leukaemia, the most commonly diagnosed cancer type in children, accounts for similar proportions of cancer cases (31% and 29% in boys and girls, respectively, in Great Britain between 2006 and 2008) and deaths (30% in both sexes in Great Britain between 1996 and 2005).7,9

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section updated 04/12/13

Teenagers and young adults aged 15-24

Teenage and young adult males is the only age group in which cancer is not the most common cause of death overall. Transport accidents account for the highest proportion of deaths in males (accounting for 21% of all deaths) and the second highest in females (13%), whilst cancer is the fourth most common cause of death in young men aged 15-24 (accounting for 9% of all deaths) and the most common cause of death in young women (15%) (Figures 3.2 and 3.3, respectively).4-6

Less than one per cent of the total cancer deaths occur in 15-24 year olds.1-3 In the UK between 2009 and 2011, an average of 181 and 130 cancer deaths per year occurred in males and females aged 15-24 years, respectively. Leukaemia is the most common cause of cancer deaths in young men, accounting for around a fifth (20%) of all male cancer deaths in this age group, and is the second most common cause in young women, accounting for 17% of all female cancer deaths. Brain, other CNS and intracranial tumours are the most common cause of cancer deaths in young women, accounting for 21% of all female cancer deaths, and are the second most common cause in young men, accounting for 20% of all male cancer deaths in this age group (Figures 3.4 and 3.5, respectively).1-3 Other common causes of cancer deaths in young men and women include bone sarcoma (17% and 12%, respectively) and soft-tissue sarcoma (data not shown). Although testicular cancer accounts for more than a quarter of the total cancers diagnosed in males aged 15-24 years (26% in the UK in 2008-2010),10-13 the majority of men with this disease are cured, even if diagnosed at a late stage.14-16 Hence, testicular cancer only accounts for 4% of all cancer deaths in males in this age group.1-3

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section updated 04/12/13

Adults aged 25-49

Cancer accounts for a much higher proportion of all deaths in women aged 25-49 (39%) compared with men (18%) (Figures 3.2 and 3.3, respectively).4-6 This age group still only accounts for less than five per cent (4%) of the total cancer deaths, however, and it is the only age group in which the number of female cancer deaths exceeds the number of male cancer deaths, with a male:female ratio of almost 8:10 (an average of 2,868 cancer deaths per year in men in the UK between 2009 and 2011, compared with 3,723 cancer deaths per year in women).1-3 Much of this inequality can be attributed to the relatively high numbers of women aged 25-49 who die from breast cancer, accounting for 32% of all female cancer deaths in this age group (Figure 3.5);1-3 this is despite the majority of these women being too young for routine breast screening. Nonetheless, female breast cancer mortality rates have been decreasing in 25-49 year-olds in the UK since the early 1970s. This is likely to be due to a combination of factors, including increased specialisation of care and better access to more effective treatments (such as improved surgical techniques, targeted use of radiotherapy and use of adjuvant therapies - for example, the widespread adoption of tamoxifen).17-19

Other common causes of cancer deaths for females in this age group are lung (9%), cervical (7%) and  bowel (7%) cancers.1-3 Women in this age group are invited to take part in the UK cervical screening programmes and it is estimated that cervical screening prevents around 5,000 deaths each year in the UK.20

The most common causes of cancer deaths in males in this age group (Figure 3.4) are lung cancer (14%), brain, other CNS and intracranial tumours (13%) and bowel cancer (10%).1-3

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section updated 04/12/13

Adults aged 50-74

Cancer is a major killer in adults aged 50-74, accounting for around two in every five (41%) deaths in males and around half (49%) of all deaths in females (Figures 3.2 and 3.3, respectively).4-6 This age group also represents a much higher proportion of all cancer deaths compared with the younger age groups, with 44% of all cancer deaths occurring in 50-74 year-olds.1-3 Slightly more deaths occur in males (an average of 37,769 per year in the UK between 2009 and 2011) than in females (31,055 deaths per year). Lung cancer accounts for around one in four cancer deaths in men (27%) and women (24%) aged 50-74 (Figures 3.4 and 3.5, respectively).1-3 Other common causes of cancer deaths for males in this age group are bowel and prostate cancers (10% and 8%, respectively). Breast and bowel cancers account for 16% and 8% of all female cancer deaths, respectively. Men and women in this age group are invited to take part in the UK bowel screening programmes. In England, bowel screening has been shown to reduce the risk of dying from bowel cancer by a quarter in people who are screened.21

section reviewed 04/12/13
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Elderly aged 75+

Despite cancer only accounting for 27% and 19% of all deaths in elderly men and women, respectively (Figures 3.2 and 3.3),4-6 over half (52%) of all cancer deaths occur in the elderly.1-3 Slightly more cancer deaths occur in elderly males (an average of 41,831 per year in the UK between 2009 and 2011) than in females (39,774 deaths per year). Lung cancer is the most common cause of cancer deaths in elderly men and women, accounting for around a fifth of all cancer deaths (22% and 19%, respectively) (Figures 3.4 and 3.5).1-3 The next most common cause of cancer deaths in males is prostate cancer, accounting for nearly a fifth (19%) of cancer deaths in this age group (Figure 3.4).1-3 Some studies have shown that elderly men with prostate cancer are more likely to be diagnosed at a later stage, or with more aggressive tumours, and are less likely to receive radical treatment.22,23 The second most common cause of cancer deaths in elderly women (Figure 3.5) is breast cancer (13%), followed by bowel cancer (11%).1-3

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section updated 04/12/13

 

Trends by age

Mortality rates for all cancers combined have decreased overall for most of the broad age groups in the UK since the early 1970s (Figure 3.6).1-3 European AS mortality rates in 50-59 year olds have decreased from 313 deaths in every 100,000 in 1971-1973 to 182 in every 100,000 in 2009-2011 - a drop in rates of 42%.

The decrease in mortality rates in people younger than 50 is slightly greater than in the 50-59 age group (more than 50%); however, this age group accounts for less than 5% of the total cancer deaths. In people aged 60-69, the decline in mortality rates has not been so pronounced at around 29%. Although there has been an overall decrease in mortality rates of almost 9% in people aged 70-79, this includes an increase in females of 5% and a decrease in males of 25% (data not shown). In people aged 80 and over there has been an overall increase in mortality rates of 28% from 1,550 in every 100,000 people in 1971-1973 to 1,980 in 2009-2011; however, rates have fluctuated over the time period (Figure 3.6).1-3

Figure 3.6: All Cancers (C00-C97), European Age-Standardised Mortality Rates, UK, 1971-2011

All cancers mortality trends by age infographic

section reviewed 04/12/13
section updated 04/12/13

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References for cancer mortality by age

  1. Data were provided by the Office for National Statistics on request, March 2013. Similar data can be found here: http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/publications/all-releases.html?definition=tcm%3A77-27475.
  2. Data were provided by ISD Scotland on request, November 2012. Similar data can be found here: http://gro-scotland.gov.uk/statistics/theme/vital-events/general/ref-tables/index.html.
  3. Data were provided by the Northern Ireland Cancer Registry on request, May 2013. Similar data can be found here: http://www.nisra.gov.uk/demography/default.asp22.htm.
  4. Office for National Statistics. Mortality Statistics: Deaths registered in England and Wales (Series DR).
  5. General Register Office for Scotland. Vital Events Reference Tables.
  6. Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency. Registrar General Annual Reports.
  7. Personal communication with Charles Stiller, Childhood Cancer Research Group.
  8. Stiller CA. Childhood Cancer in Britain: Incidence, survival, mortality. Oxford University Press; 2007.
  9. Childhood Cancer Research Group. Childhood Cancer Registrations, Great Britain, 2006-2008. Available from: http://www.ccrg.ox.ac.uk/datasets/registrations.shtml (Accessed January 2013).
  10. Data were provided by the Office for National Statistics on request, June 2012. Similar data can be found here: http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/rel/vsob1/cancer-statistics-registrations--england--series-mb1-/index.html (Accessed January 2013).
  11. Data were provided by ISD Scotland on request, April 2012. Similar data can be found here: http://www.isdscotland.org/Health-Topics/Cancer/Publications/index.asp (Accessed January 2013).
  12. Data were provided by the Welsh Cancer Intelligence and Surveillance Unit on request, April 2012. Similar data can be found here: http://www.wales.nhs.uk/sites3/page.cfm?orgid=242&pid=59080 (Accessed January 2013).
  13. Data were provided by the Northern Ireland Cancer Registry on request, October 2012. Similar data can be found here: http://www.qub.ac.uk/research-centres/nicr/CancerData/OnlineStatistics/ (Accessed January 2013).
  14. Nur U, Rachet B, Mitry E, et al. Survival from testicular cancer in England and Wales up to 2001. Br J Cancer 2008;99 Suppl 1:S80-2.
  15. Masters JR, Koberle B. Curing metastatic cancer: lessons from testicular germ-cell tumours. Nat Rev Cancer 2003;3:517-25.
  16. Jones RH, Vasey PA. Part II: testicular cancer--management of advanced disease. Lancet Oncol 2003;4:738-47.
  17. Baum M. The changing face of breast cancer -- past, present and future perspectives. Breast Cancer Res Treat 2002;75(Suppl 1:S1-5; discussion S33-5).
  18. Kingsmore D, Ssemwogerere A, Hole D, et al. Specialisation and breast cancer survival in the screening era. Br J Cancer 2003;Jun 2;88(11):1708-12.
  19. Autier P, Boniol M, La Vecchia C, et al. Disparities in breast cancer mortality trends between 30 European countries: retrospective trend analysis of WHO mortality database. BMJ 2010;341.
  20. Peto J, Gilham C, Fletcher O, et al. The cervical cancer epidemic that screening has prevented in the UK. Lancet 2004;364(9430):249-56.
  21. Hewitson P, Glasziou P, Irwig L, et al. Screening for colorectal cancer using the faecal occult blood test. Hemoccult. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2007(1):CD001216.
  22. Fairley L, Baker M, Whiteway J, et al. Trends in non-metastatic prostate cancer management in the Northern and Yorkshire region of England 2000-2006. Br J Cancer 2009;101(11):1839-45.
  23. Lyratzopoulos G, Barbiere JM, Greenberg DC, et al. Population based time trends and socioeconomic variation in use of radiotherapy and radical surgery for prostate cancer in a UK region: continuous survey. BMJ 2010;340:c1928.
Updated: 4 December 2013