Date Published: 24 November 2005

Cancer Research finds fewer dying of cancer; incidence remains stable

Cancer Research UK

New statistics reveal that fewer middle-aged people are dying of cancer, while the number of new cases is stable. The findings will be presented at the Britain Against Cancer conference today, Thurs 24 Nov '05.

The figures, which have been published by Cancer Research UK and the UK Association of Cancer Registries (UKACR), reveal that lung, breast, bowel and prostate cancers will continue to be the most common types by far. But the incidence of some less common cancers is increasing. This is the first time that incidence trend data have been available over a ten-year period for the whole of the UK.

A team led by Professor David Forman, Cancer Research UK researcher at the University of Leeds and Chair of the UKACR, analysed the latest trends among people aged between 35 and 69. By highlighting cancer trends in people currently in middle age, the figures give an insight into the types of cancer that will pose the biggest future threats as this group continues to age.

Overall, cancer incidence rates have remained stable among 35 to 69 year olds. But death rates have fallen by around 2.4% each year over the past ten years.

The number of people dying of bowel cancer has fallen considerably. Rates fell by 22% in men and 26% in women. And mortality from breast cancer fell by a quarter over the past ten years, in spite of an increase in incidence.

Professor Forman said:

" It's very important to look at cancer trends in younger adults, so we can see how the spectrum of cancer is changing. Having 10-year data has enabled us to do this for the first time for the UK as a whole.
_ The statistics confirm that the current four major cancers ? lung, breast, bowel and prostate ? will continue to dominate in the future.
_ They also show that thousands fewer people are dying of cancer every year. The global cancer research effort has led to many important gains."

Prostate cancer incidence has more than doubled in 10 years. The dramatic rise in the incidence of prostate cancer is due largely to the increase in PSA testing. While the PSA test leads to greater detection of all prostate cancers, it also identifies cases which may not become a clinical problem for some men.

The number of new cases of lung cancer in women is falling in 35 to 69 year olds. This indicates that we are approaching the peak of lung cancer cases in women of all ages. Lung cancer rates are already falling in men.

Professor Forman added:

" There will be little change in how cancers are ranked at the top of the incidence table. But it also emerges that cancers that have previously received less attention ? such as cancers of the mouth and malignant melanoma ? are likely to become more prominent in the future."

The incidence of mouth cancer increased by 23% in men and 24% in women. Cancer Research UK last week launched a new campaign ? called Open Up to Mouth Cancer ? to raise awareness of the disease and its early signs. The number of melanomas diagnosed in the UK continues to rise. Incidence rates increased by 35% in men and by 22% in women. There is good news for the incidence of other cancers. Cervical cancer incidence and mortality have fallen by over a third. This is mainly due to the ability of screening and simple treatment of pre-malignancy to prevent the disease altogether. Death rates for stomach cancer have dropped by 39% in men and by 45% in women. The dramatic improvement reflects changes in the way food is preserved and the eradication of Helicobacter pylori, through antibiotic use and improved social conditions.

Professor Forman added:

" Stomach cancer used to be the most common form of cancer death in the UK. The falls in incidence and death rates for the disease are very striking."

Professor John Toy, Medical Director of Cancer Research UK, said:

" Determining the cancers affecting people in middle age provides a snapshot of our future challenges.
_ It is very encouraging that death rates are falling for so many cancers. We are reaping the benefits of numerous improvements in early detection and treatment gained over many years.
_ Half of cancers could be prevented by changes in lifestyle such as stopping smoking, maintaining a healthy body weight and a healthy diet, by being SunSmart and by attending screening."

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