50+ health * Healthy living

Four in ten Britons "will get cancer"

Four in ten Britons  will get cancer Over 2 million living with cancer

More than four in every 10 people in the UK will get cancer, according to a health charity.

A new study by Macmillan Cancer Support says that cancer rates are growing so fast that 42 per cent of all people who die in the UK will have had a cancer diagnosis at some point in their lives.

And for 64 per cent of these people, cancer will be the actual cause of death. This makes cancer responsible for more than 1 in 4 of all deaths.

Macmillan also estimates that cancer cases have increased by 35 per cent in the last 10 years from 1.5m to 2m (at 2008).

However, the good news is that part of the increase can be attributed to better treatments for some cancers, so more people are surviving for longer after a cancer diagnosis.

But these improvements have their own problems, as many cancer survivors face ongoing long-term health problems. For example, for survivors of colorectal cancer still alive between 5 and 7 years after diagnosis, the study found that:

  • Two thirds will have an ongoing health problem;
  • A fifth will have some form of advanced cancer, such as secondary cancer, metastatic cancer and secondary primary tumours;
  • Nearly half (42%) will be living with ongoing health problems like cardiovascular and intestinal illnesses; and
  • Only 36 per cent will avoid any ongoing health problems related to their cancer treatment.

Commenting on the survey results, Ciarán Devane, chief executive of Macmillan Cancer Support, said: "It is really alarming that the number of people who will get cancer is now well past one in three, and that there are so many more people with cancer today than even ten years ago."

He called on the NHS to "recognise cancer’s long term impact on people’s lives" and asked that it plan better services and more personalised care for cancer patients, and that more should be done to develop services which can keep people well and at home.

He also predicted that the total number of cancer cases in the UK will double over the next 20 years to 5m cases but doubts that resources will be doubled to match.

"No one thinks the country can afford to double its spending on cancer. We’ve therefore got to become twice as effective in how we spend that money" Mr Devane added.

More information

Macmillan Cancer Support

This article was published on Thu 14 July 2011

Image © Dmitry Nikolaev - Fotolia.com

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