50+ health * Healthy living

Cancer rates rise in middle-aged

Cancer rates rise in middle-aged But cancer survival rates improve

Cancer rates in middle-aged men and women in the UK have increased by nearly 20 per cent over the last 30 years according to figures produced by Cancer Research UK.

In 1979, 44,000 middle aged people (40-59) were diagnosed with cancer, but in 2008 the figure was 61,000. By gender, the increase in cases in women is even more marked, up from 24,000 to more than 36,500, compared to a change from 20,000 to 24,000 cases in men over the same period.

Part of this increase can be linked to widespread screening programmes for cancers such as breast cancer and improved diagnostic tools such as the PSA test for prostate cancer.

For instance, among 40-59 year olds, prostate cancer rates have risen six-fold in 30 years and breast cancer rates have increased by 50 per cent. But cases of lung cancer in men of this age have dropped from 6,300 to around 2,700, partly explained by the reduction in the number of people who smoke.

Good news

But the survey also uncovers some good news - cancer survival rates have improved markedly, almost doubling over the period studied. Still, the charity warns against complacency, calling for more investment to identify effective ways of prevention and better treatments for patients.

Screening programmes also allow for earlier intervention, which has a major impact on survival rates.

Harpal Kumar, chief executive of Cancer Research UK, said: "There has been undeniable progress in the treatment of cancer over the last 40 years and many more people are surviving the disease.

"But we must redouble our efforts to ensure that our research continues to discover new techniques to improve and refine diagnosis and treatment so that cancer survival becomes the norm for patients, irrespective of the cancer they have or their age at diagnosis."

This article was published on Mon 18 July 2011

Image © Monkey Business - Fotolia.com

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