Cancer risk statistics

Lifetime risk

1 in 2 UK people will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime

Prevention

Cancer cases are preventable, UK, 2015

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.
  • Around 4 in 10 UK cancer cases every year could be prevented, that’s more than 135,000 every year.
  • Nearly 112,000 England cases, around 13,000 Scotland cancer cases, around 7,200 Wales cancer cases, and around 3,500 Northern Ireland cancer cases every year could be prevented.
  • Lung cancer, bowel cancer, melanoma skin cancer, and breast cancer together account for almost two-thirds of all preventable cancer cases in the UK.
  • For 10 cancer types, including two of the five most common cancer types in the UK (lung cancer and melanoma skin cancer), more than 70% of UK cancer cases were attributable to known risk factors.
  • Overexposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation, exposure to certain substances at work, exposure to certain infections, drinking alcohol, and eating too little fibre each cause 3-4% of cancer cases in the UK.
  • Exposure to ionising radiation and eating processed meat each cause 1-2% of cancer cases in the UK.
  • Exposure to outdoor air pollution and doing too little physical activity each cause 1% or less of cancer cases in the UK.

See more in-depth statistics on preventable cancer cases

  • Smoking is the largest cause of cancer 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

  • Overweight and obesity causes more than 1 in 20 cancer cases in the UK.
  • More than 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 older adults. However, prevalence of overweight and obesity increases in Scotland in older females and in Northern Ireland.
  • Overweight and obesity prevalence among adults in England has increased since the early 1990s.
  • Overweight and obesity prevalence among adults in England is higher in lower-income households compared with higher-income households.
  • 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

Infographics showing how 4 in 10 cancer cases can be prevented are available to download or to order, for free, as a printed poster. Available for UK, England, Scotland, Wales, Wales (in Welsh), and Northern Ireland. Get them now from our publication site:

Preventable cancers: UK (infographic poster)

Preventable cancers: England (infographic poster)

Preventable cancers: Scotland (infographic poster)

Preventable cancers: Wales (infographic poster)

Preventable cancers: Wales in Welsh (infographic poster)

Preventable cancers: Northern Ireland (infographic poster)

Also available as landscape images, suitable for PowerPoint presentations etc.

Preventable cancers: UK (landscape picture)

Preventable cancers: England (landscape picture)

Preventable cancers: Scotland (landscape picture)

Preventable cancers: Wales (landscape picture)

Preventable cancers: Wales (in Welsh) (landscape picture)

Preventable cancers: Northern Ireland (landscape picture)

Infographics showing the cancers caused by which risk factors are available to download, for free. Available for cancers caused by; tobacco, overweight and obesity, alcohol, infections, occupation, UV and HPV for UK, England, Scotland, Wales, Wales (in Welsh), and Northern Ireland. Get them now:

Being Overweight and cancer types: UK (infographic poster)

Being Overweight and cancer types: England (infographic poster)

Being Overweight and cancer types: Scotland (infographic poster)

Being Overweight and cancer types: Wales (infographic poster)

Being Overweight and cancer types: Northern Ireland (infographic poster)

Alcohol and cancer types: UK (infographic poster)

Alcohol and cancer types: England (infographic poster)

Alcohol and cancer types: Scotland (infographic poster)

Alcohol and cancer types: Wales (infographic poster)

Alcohol and cancer types: Northern Ireland (infographic poster)

Infections and cancer types: UK (infographic poster)

Infections and cancer types: England (infographic poster)

Infections and cancer types: Scotland (infographic poster)

Infections and cancer types: Wales (infographic poster)

Infections and cancer types: Northern Ireland (infographic poster)

Work and cancer types: UK (infographic poster)

Work and cancer types: England (infographic poster)

Work and cancer types: Scotland (infographic poster)

Work and cancer types: Wales (infographic poster)

Work and cancer types: Northern Ireland (infographic poster)

Sun UV and cancer types: UK (infographic poster)

Sun UV and cancer types: England (infographic poster)

Sun UV and cancer types: Scotland (infographic poster)

Sun UV and cancer types: Wales (infographic poster)

Sun UV and cancer types: Northern Ireland (infographic poster)

Smoking and cancer types: UK (infographic poster)

Smoking and cancer types: England (infographic poster)

Smoking and cancer types: Scotland (infographic poster)

Smoking and cancer types: Wales (infographic poster)

Smoking and cancer types: Northern Ireland (infographic poster)

HPV and cancer types: UK (infographic poster)

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

Want to generate bespoke preventable cancers stats statements? Download our interactive statement generator.

Want the key stats in the sections on this page as a document? or looking for a stats report of the in-depth stats? Use the print function at the bottom of any Cancer Stats page Share this page > Print or your browser options to print or save.

Last reviewed:

Local Cancer Statistics

Local level cancer statistics; search profiles by area, constituency or health board in the UK..

Interested in an overview for Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland?

Cancer stats explained

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

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Acknowledgements

We are grateful to the many organisations across the UK which collect, analyse, and share the data which we use, and to the patients and public who consent for their data to be used. Find out more about the sources which are essential for our statistics.

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