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Cancer mortality for all cancers combined

Mortality statistics for all cancers combined are presented here. There are also data by country in the UK, trends over time, deaths avoided and a comparison with other causes of death.

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

UK totals of cancer deaths

Around 162,000 people died from cancer in the UK in 2012 (Table 1.1).1-3 The crude mortality rate shows that this equates to 254 deaths for every 100,000 people. The European age-standardised (AS) mortality rate - which provides unbiased comparisons between different populations with respect to age - is significantly higher in males than in females (199 and 147 per 100,000, respectively). This inequality is also seen when deaths from the sex-specific cancers and lung cancer are removed from the analysis.4,5

Across the UK, AS mortality rates are significantly higher in Scotland compared with the three other UK countries for both males and females (225 and 174 per 100,000, respectively). For males, rates in England are lower compared with Northern Ireland, and for females rates in England are lower compared with Wales.

Table 1.1: All Cancers (C00-C97), Number of Deaths, Crude and European Age-Standardised (AS) Mortality Rates per 100,000 Population, UK, 2012

England Wales Scotland Northern Ireland UK
Male Deaths 70,403 4,521 7,978 2,166 85,068
Crude Rate 267.4 299.4 309.6 242.1 271.7
AS Rate 195.8 198.0 225.4 206.0 198.7
AS Rate - 95% LCL 194.3 192.2 220.5 197.4 197.4
AS Rate - 95% UCL 197.2 203.7 230.4 214.7 200.0
Female Deaths 62,728 4,173 7,886 1,968 76,755
Crude Rate 231.0 266.8 288.2 211.8 237.0
AS Rate 143.4 151.9 173.6 146.9 146.6
AS Rate - 95% LCL 142.3 147.2 169.7 140.5 145.6
AS Rate - 95% UCL 144.5 156.5 177.4 153.4 147.6
Persons Deaths 133,131 8,694 15,864 4,134 161,823
Crude Rate 248.9 282.8 298.6 226.7 254.0
AS Rate 165.6 171.4 194.7 171.9 168.6
AS Rate - 95% LCL 164.7 167.8 191.7 166.6 167.8
AS Rate - 95% UCL 166.5 175.0 197.7 177.1 169.4

Download this table XLS (34KB) PPT (165KB) PDF (40KB)

95% LCL and 95% UCL are the 95% lower and upper confidence limits around the AS Rate

section reviewed 15/09/14
section updated 15/09/14

Trends in cancer deaths in the UK

Cancer mortality is decreasing in the UK despite small increases in incidence. This can largely be attributed to better survival rates, thanks to earlier diagnosis and improved treatments. For all cancers combined, mortality started to fall in the early 1990s with the European AS mortality rates decreasing by 27% and 20% in males and females, respectively, between 1990-1992 and 2010-2012 in the UK (Figure 1.1).1-3 The rate of decrease has slowed down in the last ten years, with the AS mortality rates decreasing by 13% in males and 9% in females between 2001-2003 and 2010-2012. This is despite small increases in AS incidence rates during the last decade. The rates of people dying from cancer is predicted to fall further (by around 17%) between 2011 and 2030 in the UK.8,9

Figure 1.1: All Cancers (C00-C97), European Age-Standardised Mortality Rates, UK, 1971-2012


Download this chart XLS (53KB) PPT (131KB) PDF (45KB)

section reviewed 15/09/14
section updated 15/09/14

Cancer deaths avoided in the UK

An estimated 519,000 cancer deaths have been avoided in the UK between the 1980s and 2010.6

The number of cancer deaths averted in males (more than 352,000) is more than twice the number of females (more than 166,000) (Figure 1.2). The number of avoided cancer deaths is estimated by comparing the actual number of deaths observed with the expected number of deaths that would have occurred if the peak mortality rates had remained constant at their peak levels (for men in 1984 and for women in 1989; Figure 1.1).

Figure 1.2: All Cancers (C00-C97), Numbers of Actual and Expected Deaths and Estimated Avoided Deaths, UK, 1975-2010

  • Overall
  • By sex
  • By age
Cancer deaths were rising. Research holds cancer back. 519,000 lives saved - cancer deaths avoided due to mortality rates coming down since their peaks in the 1980s.
The biggest improvements are in men.
The percentage of avoided deaths is highest among younger age groups.

The expected number of cancer deaths is calculated by applying the five-year age-specific cancer death rates in the peak year for age-standardised cancer death rates for males and females to the age-specific populations in the each year up to 2010. This is the number of expected deaths in each year if mortality rates had not decreased and remained at peak levels. The observed number of deaths is the actual number of deaths that have occurred. The difference between the number of expected and observed deaths in each age group and year for males and females is then summed to obtain the total number of cancer deaths avoided since the peak in age-standardised mortality rates.7

section reviewed 15/09/14
section updated 09/07/13

Cancer deaths compared with other causes of death in the UK

Cancer is a major cause of mortality and morbidity in the UK. More than one in four (29%) deaths were caused by cancer in the UK in 2011, with around 85,400 more deaths due to cancer than coronary heart disease, and around 118,000 more deaths due to cancer than strokes (Figure 1.3).1-3 The percentage of deaths from cancer is slightly higher in males (31%) than in females (27%), reflecting higher overall mortality rates in men. Reducing the number of cancer deaths (and bringing cancer mortality rates in line with European averages) remains a high priority for all UK governments.11-13

Figure 1.3: The Ten Most Common Causes of Death, Number of Deaths per Year, Ages One and Over, UK, 2011


Download this chart XLS (58KB) PPT (141KB) PDF (47KB)

Deaths are presented for ages one and over because of the large numbers of deaths that occur in infants (for example, during childbirth or related to immaturity conditions or congenital anomalies). In the UK between 2009-11 there were an average of 3,561 deaths per year in under one year olds, 14 (0.4%) of which were due to cancer (C00-C97).

section reviewed 15/09/14
section updated 16/12/13

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Reference for all cancers combined  mortality

  1. Data were provided by the Office for National Statistics on request, January 2014. Similar data can be found here:
  2. Data were provided by ISD Scotland on request, March 2014. Similar data can be found here:
  3. Data were provided by the Northern Ireland Cancer Registry on request, December 2013. Similar data can be found here:
  4. White AK, Thomson CS, Forman D, et al. Men’s Health and the Excess Burden of Cancer in Men. Eur Urol Suppl 2010; 9(3):467-470.
  5. Cancer Research UK, Leeds Metropolitan University, Men’s Health Forum, National Cancer Intelligence Network. Excess Cancer Burden in Men. London: Cancer Research UK; 2013.
  6. Deaths avoided calculated by the Statistical Information Team at Cancer Research UK, 2013.
  7. Method set out in Siegel R, Ward E, Brawley O, Jemal A., Cancer statistics, 2011: the impact of eliminating socioeconomic and racial disparities on premature cancer deaths. CA Cancer J Clin. 2011 Jul-Aug;61(4):212-36.
  8. Mistry M, Parking D, Ahmad A, et al. Cancer Incidence in the UK: Projections to the year 2030. Br J Cancer 2011;105:1975-1803.
  9. Sasieni P, et al. Cancer mortality projections in the UK to 2030 (unpublished). Analyses undertaken and data supplied on request; September 2013.
  10. Department of Health. Improving outcomes: a strategy for cancer. London: Department of Health;2011.
  11. Welsh government. Together for Health, Cancer Delivery Plans for the NHS up to 2016. Cardiff: Welsh Government; 2012.
  12. The Scottish Government. Better Cancer Care, An Action Plan. Edinburgh: The Scottish Government; 2008.
  13. The Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety. Service Framework for Cancer Prevention, Treatment and Care. Belfast: DHSS&PS; 2011.
Updated: 15 September 2014