Cancer is primarily a disease of older people, with incidence rates increasing with age for most cancers.[1-4] In the UK in 2012-2014, on average each year half (50%) of cases were diagnosed in people aged 70 and over.
All Cancers (C00-C97 Excl. C44) Average Number of New Cases per Year and Age-Specific Incidence Rates, UK, 2012-2014
Children aged 0-14, and teenagers and young adults aged 15-24, each account for less than one per cent of all new cancer cases in the UK (2011-2013).[1-4] Adults aged 25-49 contribute a tenth (10%) of all new cancer cases, with twice as many cases in females as males in this age group.[1-4] Adults aged 50-74 account for over half (53%) of all new cancer cases, and elderly people aged 75+ account for over a third (36%), with slightly more cases in males than females in both age groups. There are more people aged 50-74 than aged 75+ in the population overall, hence the number of cancer cases is higher in 50-74s, but incidence rates are higher in 75+.
For most cancer types, incidence increases with age. This largely reflects cell DNA damage accumulating over time. Damage can result from biological processes or from exposure to risk factors. A drop or plateau in incidence in the oldest age groups often indicates reduced diagnostic activity perhaps due to general ill health.
- Data were provided by the Office for National Statistics on request, June 2016. Similar data can be found here: http://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/healthandsocialcare/conditionsanddiseases/bulletins/cancerregistrationstatisticsengland/previousReleases.
- Data were provided by ISD Scotland on request, May 2016. Similar data can be found here: http://www.isdscotland.org/Health-Topics/Cancer/Publications/.
- Data were provided by the Welsh Cancer Intelligence and Surveillance Unit, Health Intelligence Division, Public Health Wales on request, June 2016. Similar data can be found here: http://www.wcisu.wales.nhs.uk
- Data were provided by the Northern Ireland Cancer Registry on request, May 2016. Similar data can be found here: http://www.qub.ac.uk/research-centres/nicr/
About this data
Data is for UK, 2012-2014, ICD-10 (C00-C97 Excl. C44)