50+ health * Healthy living

Cancer deaths at 40 year low

Cancer deaths at 40 year low More cases but improved survival rate for common cancers

The number of deaths caused by the three most common cancers in the UK has dropped to its lowest level for almost 40 years, according to new figures released by Cancer Research UK.

Mortality rates for breast, bowel and male lung cancer are at their lowest since records began in 1971.

This is despite current figures which show that more than 100,000 people are diagnosed with these cancers each year.

Breast cancer deaths peaked in 1989 with 15,625 women dying from the disease. The latest figures for 2007 show that this has fallen to 11,990, equivalent to a drop in the mortality rate of 36%.

Bowel cancer deaths peaked in 1992 with 19,598 men and women dying from the disease. In 2007 16,007 died, a drop of 31%.

The number of men dying from lung cancer peaked in 1979 at 30,391 but fell to 19,637 in 2007, a drop of 53%.

Although increased life expectancy means more people are being diagnosed with cancer, the drop in deaths is thought to be caused by better screening, new and better treatments and, in lung cancer, people kicking the smoking habit.

"Years of research are behind the dramatic progress being made in the fight against Britain's common cancers. Survival rates have doubled in the last thirty years and the work of Cancer Research UK has been at the heart of that progress", said Harpal Kumar, chief executive of Cancer Research UK.

"Our research is behind 19 of the top 20 drugs used to treat cancer patients worldwide today. Our work has underpinned the huge progress we are now seeing in preventing more deaths from lung cancer. And our progress over decades has helped to develop radiotherapy as a major form of treatment for half of all cancer patients," he added.

The figures were released to mark the start of an advertisement campaign by the charity to increase awareness of the disease and raise funds for scientific research.

More information


This article was published on Mon 13 July 2009

Image © Artur Gabrysiak - Fotolia.com

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