Cancer cases on the rise despite fewer middle aged people dying from the disease

UK

Fewer middle-aged people are dying from cancer than at any point in 25 years, despite cases rising, according to new research.

A Cancer Research UK study found death rates among people aged between 35 and 69 have nosedived, thanks to screening, better treatment and fewer people smoking.

However, the Britain-wide study warned that improvements in survival are slowing down, while cancer cases are rising, with a 57% jump in men and a 48% jump in women over the quarter of a century studied.

In 1993, 55,014 cancer cases were registered in males, but this rose to 86,297 in 2018, while in women the rise was from 60,187 to 88,970.

Researchers said the rise was largely driven by increases in prostate and breast cancer, mostly due to better screening.

However, there were also “concerning” rises in melanoma, liver, oral and kidney cancers.

While cases are also rising due to population growth, obesity, drinking and inactivity are also playing a part, the researchers said.

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Cancer Research UK claims that policies being brought in to combat smoking, obesity and alcohol, could prevent around 37,000 by 2040.

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According to the study, four cancers (liver, melanoma, oral and kidney) showed “substantial increases in incidence” of more than 2% per year in both sexes across the period.

These are linked to lifestyle factors, such as alcohol, smoking, sun exposure and obesity, according to the study.

“Increases in liver cancer incidence and mortality for both men and women are very concerning, with nearly one in two attributable to modifiable risk factors,” they said.

“With high prevalence of overweight and obesity and diabetes in the general population, other studies expect the rates to remain high.”

Being overweight or obese can cause 13 types of cancer including stomach, bowel, liver, pancreatic, gallbladder, breast, uterus, ovary, kidney and thyroid.

Alcohol has been linked to seven types of cancer, including mouth, upper throat, larynx, oesophagus, breast and bowel cancer.

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The study found that, overall, death rates have dropped by 37% in men and by 33% in women over the 25 years, when accounting for the growing and ageing population.

Success against individual cancers is noted.

Deaths from cervical cancer fell by 54%, reflecting the success of NHS cervical screening and HPV vaccine programmes.

Lung cancer deaths also fell, by 53% in men and 21% in women, thanks to a fall in the number of smokers.

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UK ‘behind’ in cancer treatment

Drops were also observed for stomach, mesothelioma and bladder cancers in men, and stomach and non-Hodgkin lymphoma in women.

Cancer Research UK’s head of cancer intelligence and lead author of the study Jon Shelton said: “We must continue to prevent as many cancer cases as possible, diagnose cancers sooner and develop kinder treatments.”

“Cancer patients won’t feel the full benefits of advances in research breakthroughs and innovation, including new cancer treatments, without a long-term plan and funding from the UK government.”

Health Secretary Victoria Atkins said: “I welcome the positive findings of this report. Through innovations in technology and treatment, cancer screening programmes and measures to help people quit smoking, survival rates are improving across almost all types of cancer.”

For the study, researchers used UK-wide data to examine trends in men and women aged 35 to 69 who were newly diagnosed with, or died from, cancer between 1993 and 2018.

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