Figures published on cancer rates in Scotland

In collaboration with the Press Association

The overall incidence of cancer in Scotland has fallen slightly in both men and women, although new figures show considerable variation between different types of cancer.

While the overall cancer rate has fallen in Scotland, the actual number of cases recorded per year has risen slightly over the last ten years, largely due to the fact that the population is ageing and cancer becomes more likely as people get older.

Around 13,100 men and 13,800 women were diagnosed with cancer in 2006, while the age-standardised incidence rate (which takes the ageing population into account) fell by nine per cent in males and by three per cent in females between 1996 and 2006.

The most common cancer overall is lung cancer, which is also the most prevalent form of the disease in Scottish men.

Incidence of lung cancer has fallen by 23 per cent in men over the last ten years, but risen by five per cent in women, reflecting smoking trends.

In Scottish women, the most common form of the disease is breast cancer. Incidence of the disease has increased by ten per cent over the last decade, which is partly attributed to increased detection through breast screening and the extension of Scotland's screening programme to include women up to the age of 70 years.

However, experts also believe that the rise in breast cancer is partly due to changes in people's behaviour that increase the risk of the disease, particularly increasing alcohol consumption and delayed motherhood.

Prostate cancer rates appear to have risen, but this is partly due to increased detection of the disease, and there have also been increases in the incidence rates of cancers of the womb (11 per cent), testes (17 per cent), and non-melanoma skin cancers.

In contrast there have been significant falls in the incidence rates of stomach (30 per cent), cervical (29 per cent), ovarian (19 per cent) and in pancreatic cancer in men (17 per cent).

Of particular concern is the substantial increase in the number of men and women being diagnosed with melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer.

The disease is now the eighth most common form of cancer in men and the fourth most common in women.

Over the last decade, melanoma incidence rates have risen by 50 per cent in men and by 30 per cent in women in Scotland.

Speaking about the melanoma rates, Josephine Querido, Cancer Research UK's senior cancer information officer, said: "Rates of malignant melanoma have quadrupled since the 1970s and it is the second most common cancer in young adults.

"Sun exposure is the main cause of melanoma, the potentially fatal form of skin cancer. People with red or fair hair, fair skin which burns easily or lots of moles or freckles have an increased risk of the disease.

"The most effective way for people to reduce their risk of skin cancer is to ensure they don't burn and avoid using sunbeds. Even people who have never been abroad are still at risk from skin cancer as the summer sun in the UK can be strong enough to cause skin damage.

"Cancer Research UK's SunSmart campaign urges people to avoid sunburn by seeking shade and covering up with a t-shirt, hat and sunglasses when the summer sun is at its peak. It is also important to be aware of any changes in moles or skin blemishes and have them checked by a doctor."

The figures were published by ISD Scotland on behalf of the Scottish Cancer Registry, which has been collecting information on cancer north of the border since 1958.