Cancer risk statistics

Lifetime risk

1 in 2 people born after 1960 in the UK will be diagnosed with some form of cancer during their lifetime

Prevention

Preventable cases of cancer, UK

Smoking

Smoking is the largest single preventable cause of cancer each year in the UK

  • 1 in 2 people in the UK born after 1960 will be diagnosed with some form of cancer during their lifetime.
  • Females have the highest lifetime risk of breast, lung and bowel cancers.
  • Males have the highest lifetime risk of prostate, lung and bowel cancers.

See more in-depth statistics on lifetime risk of being diagnosed with cancer

  • A person’s risk of developing cancer depends on many factors, including age, genetics, and exposure to risk factors (including some potentially avoidable lifestyle factors).
  • 4 in 10 (42%) of cancer cases in the UK each year are linked to lifestyle factors.
  • In the last 5 years, almost 600,000 cancer cases in the UK could have been prevented.
  • Cervical, mesothelioma, oral, larynx, oesophageal and lung cancers have the highest proportions of cases linked to lifestyle factors.
  • Prostate and testicular cancers have no established lifestyle factor links.
  • Smoking is the largest single preventable cause of cancer in the UK, linked to an estimated 19% of cancer cases in the UK each year.
  • Lung cancer has the highest proportion of cases linked to smoking.
  • Diet (too little fruit, vegetables and fibre; too much red and processed meat and salt) is linked to an estimated 9% of cancer cases in the UK each year.
  • Upper aero-digestive tract cancers (oral cavity and pharynx, oesophageal, and larynx) have the highest proportion of cases linked to diet.
  • Overweight and obesity is linked to an estimated 5% of cancer cases in the UK each year.
  • Uterine, kidney and oesophageal cancers have the highest proportions of cases linked to bodyweight.
  • Alcohol is linked to an estimated 4% of cancer cases in the UK each year.
  • Upper aero-digestive tract cancers (oral cavity and pharynx, larynx, and oesophageal) have the highest proportion of cases linked to alcohol.

See more in-depth statistics on preventable cancer cases

  • Smoking is the largest single preventable cause of cancer each year in the UK.
  • Around 1 in 5 UK adults currently smoke cigarettes, around 9.4 million people.
  • Cigarette smoking prevalence among adults in the UK decreases with age.
  • Cigarette smoking prevalence among adults has decreased since the late 1940s.
  • In recent years the difference between men and women in cigarette smoking prevalence has narrowed.
  • Cigarette smoking in England is more common in people living in the most deprived areas.
  • Cigarette smoking prevalence varies by ethnic group but patterns are difficult to interpret.
  • Worldwide, 1 billion adults currently smoke cigarettes.
  • Smoking is the single most preventable cause of death in the world, and around a third of tobacco-caused deaths are due to cancer (2015 projected).
  • Around 11,000 deaths per year in the UK are caused by second-hand smoke, four-fifths occurring at home and the rest from the workplace.
  • More than half of smokers who quit with NHS stop smoking services in England, Wales and Northern Ireland are successful.
  • Almost 4 in 10 smokers who quit with NHS stop smoking services in Scotland are successful.

See more in-depth statistics on tobacco

  • Smoking prevalence is higher in children whose parents, siblings and/or peers smoke.
  • Almost 5 in 100 children under 16 in the UK smoke regularly.
  • Almost a fifth of children have tried smoking, and girls are much more likely than boys to smoke.
  • Regular cigarette smoking prevalence among children in England increases with age.
  • Regular cigarette smoking prevalence among children in England has decreased since the 1990s.
  • Around 40% of regular smokers in Great Britain began smoking before age 16.
  • Around 7 million smokers in 2012 in the UK started smoking before the age of 18.
  • An average of 136,500 children aged 11-15 started smoking each year between 2012 and 2014 in the UK but the number of new childhood smokers each year is falling.

See more in-depth statistics on childhood smoking

  • Alcohol causes an estimated 4% of all cancer cases in the UK each year.
  • Nearly 6 in 10 adults in Great Britain drank alcohol at least once in the past week.
  • Under 1 in 10 children aged 11-15 in England drank alcohol at least once in the past week. Alcohol drinking prevalence in children increases with age, and rates have decreased since 2003.
  • Alcohol drinking prevalence among adults in Great Britain peaks in middle-age.
  • Alcohol drinking prevalence among adults in Great Britain has decreased since 2005, this is mainly due to declining prevalence among younger adults.
  • Around half of adults in Great Britain who drank alcohol at least once in the past week exceeded the recommended daily alcohol limit on their heaviest drinking day.
  • Alcohol drinking prevalence among adults in Great Britain is higher in employed people compared with unemployed or economically inactive people.
  • Alcohol drinking prevalence adults in Great Britain is more common in white people than non-white people.
  • Alcohol drinking causes an estimated 6% of deaths worldwide, around 1 in 8 of which are due to cancer (2012). Alcohol drinking prevalence is highest in Europe and America.

See more in-depth statistics on alcohol

  • Overweight and obesity causes an estimated 5% of all cancer cases in the UK each year.
  • Around 6 in 10 UK adults are overweight or obese (body mass index 25 or more).
  • Overweight and obesity prevalence among adults in the UK increases until late middle-age and then decreases in the elderly.
  • Overweight and obesity prevalence among adults in England has increased since the early 1990s.
  • Overweight and obesity prevalence among women in England is higher in lower-income households compared with higher-income households, but in men there is no association with household income.
  • Prevalence of overweight and obesity varies by ethnic group in England.
  • Overweight and obesity prevalence is increasing particularly in low- and middle-income countries. Overweight and obesity are leading causes of death worldwide.

See more in-depth overweight and obesity statistics for adults

  • People who are overweight or obese in early life may remain obese in adulthood.
  • Around 3 in 10 children in the UK’s constituent countries are overweight or obese.
  • Childhood overweight and obesity prevalence overall increases with age.
  • Childhood overweight and obesity prevalence in England has increased since the mid-1990s, though this includes an increase to the mid-2000s followed by a decrease.

See more in-depth overweight and obesity statistics for children

Want to create your own lifetime risk calculations? Download our lifetime risk template to calculate the lifetime risk for a UK population using the current probability and adjusted for multiple primary (AMP) methods.

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Incidence lifetime risk statistics were calculated from UK incidence 2010 data.

Preventable cancer statistics were calculated from UK incidence 2011 data.

Tobacco use statistics are for the UK, 2013.

Childhood smoking statistics are for England, 2014.

Alcohol drinking statistics are for Great Britain, 2012.

Overweight and obesity statistics are for England, Wales and Scotland, 2012 and Northern Ireland 2011-12.

Local Cancer Statistics

Find and compare local statistics and information in the UK by healthboard, Local Authority or postcode.

Cancer Statistics Explained

See information and explanations on terminology used for statistics and reporting of cancer, and the methods used to calculate some of our statistics.

Citation

You are welcome to reuse this Cancer Research UK statistics content for your own work.

Credit us as authors by referencing Cancer Research UK as the primary source. Suggested styles are:

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Acknowledgements

We would like to acknowledge the essential work of the cancer registries in the United Kingdom and Ireland Association of Cancer Registries, without which there would be no data.

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