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Cancer survival for common cancers

Survival statistics for the most common cancers are presented here. There are data showing survival at one-, five- and ten-years, as well as trends over time. 

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

More detailed information on survival for individual cancer sites is available in the types of cancer pages.

One-, five- and ten-year survival

There is huge variation in survival between cancer types. Ten-year age-standardised net survival for patients diagnosed during 2010-2011 in England and Wales ranges from 98% for testicular cancer to just 1% for pancreatic cancer (Figure 2.1).1 Of the 21 most common cancers, 12 have ten-year survival of 50% or more, and four types - testicular cancer, malignant melanoma, prostate cancer and Hodgkin lymphoma - have survival in excess of 80%. Some cancer types, however, remain difficult to diagnose and/or treat, and survival is less than 20% for stomach, brain, oesophageal, lung and pancreatic cancers.

Figure 2.1: Age-Standardised One-, Five- and Ten-Year Net Survival, Selected Cancers, Adults (Aged 15-99), England and Wales, 2010-2011

Surv-Fig2.1-png

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Breast is for female only. Laryngeal is for male only.
Five- and ten-year survival for 2010-2011 is predicted using an excess hazard statistical model.
Survival for bowel cancer is a weighted average derived from data for colon (C18) and rectum cancer (C19-C20, C21.8)

section reviewed 29/04/14
section updated 29/04/14

Survival for the ten most common cancers in males

Of the ten most common cancers in males, age-standardised ten-year net survival is highest for malignant melanoma at 86% and lowest for lung cancer at just 4% (Figure 2.2). Prostate, lung and bowel cancers together account for over half (53%) of all new cases in males in the UK in 2011 - ten-year survival for these three cancer types varies considerably at 84%, 4% and 56% respectively (Figure 2.3).

Figure 2.2: Age-Standardised One-, Five- and Ten-Year Survival for the 10 Most Common Cancers in Males, England and Wales, 2010-2011

surv-fig2.2-png

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Five- and ten-year survival for 2010-2011 is predicted using an excess hazard statistical model
Survival for bowel cancer is a weighted average derived from data for colon (C18) and rectum cancer (C19-C20, C21.8)

Figure 2.3: Age-Standardised Ten-Year Net Survival for the Most Common Cancers in Males, England and Wales, 2010-2011

survival_doughnut_m

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Ten-year survival for 2010-2011 is predicted used an excess hazard statistical model
Survival for bowel cancer is a weighted average derived from data for colon (C18) and rectum cancer (C19-C20, C21.8)

Testicular cancer has the highest ten-year survival in men at 98%, and five year survivors of this disease may be considered 'cured'. Pancreatic cancer has the lowest ten-year survival in men at just 1%.

section reviewed 29/04/14
section updated 29/04/14

Survival for the ten most common cancers in females

Of the ten most common cancers in females, age-standardised ten-year net survival is highest for malignant melanoma at 92%, and lowest for pancreatic cancer at just 1% (Figure 2.4). Malignant melanoma and pancreatic cancer also have the highest and lowest ten-year survival out of all of the cancer types occurring in females, respectively. Breast, lung and bowel cancers together account for over half (53%) of all new cases in females in the UK in 2011 - ten-year survival for these three cancer types varies considerably, at 78%, 7% and 57%, respectively (Figure 2.5).

Figure 2.4: Age-Standardised One-, Five- and Ten-Year Survival for the 10 Most Common Cancers in Females, England and Wales, 2010-2011

Surv-Fig2.4-png

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Five- and ten-year survival for 2010-2011 is predicted using an excess hazard statistical model
Survival for bowel cancer is a weighted average derived from data for colon (C18) and rectum cancer (C19-C20, C21.8)

Figure 2.5: Age-Standardised Ten-Year Net Survival for the Most Common Cancers in Females, England and Wales, 2010-2011

survival_doughnut_f

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Ten-year survival for 2010-2011 is predicted using an excess hazard statistical model
Survival for bowel cancer is a weighted average derived from data for colon (C18) and rectum cancer (C19-C20, C21.8)

Malignant melanoma shows one of the biggest differences in survival between the sexes, with 86% of men and 92% of women predicted to survive for ten years or more (an absolute survival difference of 6 percentage points); some of this difference may be explained by a higher proportion of  thicker tumours in men, combined with other morbidity and health-related behaviours

section reviewed 29/04/14
section updated 29/04/14

Trends over time

Survival for most cancer types is improving (Figure 2.6).1 This progress can generally be attributed to faster diagnosis and advances in treatment. However, there is still scope for improvement and some cancers have shown very little improvement since the early 1970s. Increasing cancer survival remains a major priority of Improving Outcomes: A Strategy for Cancer,2 resulting in initiatives such as the National Awareness and Early Diagnosis Initiative (NAEDI), which is a public sector/third sector partnership between the Department of Health, National Cancer Action Team, and Cancer Research UK. The role of NAEDI is to promote the earlier diagnosis of cancer, and this will involve researching ways to further improve survival from cancer.

Prostate cancer has shown the largest improvement in age-standardised ten-year net survival since the early 1970s, from 25% in 1971-1972 to 84% in 2010-2011 (an absolute survival difference of almost 60 percentage points). However, interpretation of survival trends for prostate cancer is made difficult as the types of prostate cancers diagnosed have changed over time due to PSA testing. The next largest increases in ten-year survival are for malignant melanoma, non-Hodgkin lymphoma and leukaemia, with absolute survival differences of 43, 41 and 39 percentage points, respectively, between 1971-1972 and 2010-2011. Bowel cancer and female breast cancer have also shown large improvements in survival over the last forty years, with absolute survival differences of 35 and 38 percentage points, respectively. between 1971-1972 and 2010-2011.

There has been very little improvement in age-standardised ten-year net survival since the early 1970s for the four lowest surviving cancers in men and women: cancers of the brain, oesophagus, and lung have all shown absolute increases of less than 10% percentage points since 1971-1972, whilst pancreatic cancer has had no change.

Figure 2.6: Age-Standardised Ten-Year Net Survival Trends, Adults (Aged 15-99), Selected Cancers, England and Wales, 1971-2011

surv_common_change

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Breast is for female only. Laryngeal is for male only
Ten-year survival for 2005-2006 and 2010-2011 is predicted using an excess hazard statistical model
Survival for bowel cancer is a weighted average derived from data for colon (C18) and rectum cancer (C19-C20, C21.8)

section reviewed 29/04/14
section updated 29/04/14

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References for cancer survival for common cancers

  1. Cancer Research UK Cancer Survival Group, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. Personal communication, 2014.
  2. Department of Health. Improving outcomes: a strategy for cancer. London: Department of Health; 2011.
Updated: 29 April 2014