Landmark Study by Cancer Research U.K. Shows Death Rates Down By 10 Percent

Ant and Dec and Nicole Sherzinger for World Cancer Day 2016(3BL Media/Justmeans) – In recent weeks, the world has lost many musical, film and television legends—from Bowie to Lemmy to Natalie Cole to Terry Wogan, Alan Rickman and others– to cancer. The global statistics are also devastating. More than 14 million people worldwide are told they have cancer each year. This will rise to more than 23 million by 2030.  Cancer claims more than eight million lives annually around the world. To put that into context, it’s roughly the equivalent of losing the entire population of London to cancer every year.

Cancer death rates have fallen significantly in Britain despite an increase in cases, according to a landmark study by Cancer Research U.K. which shows death rates have decreased by 10 percent since 2003, with the greatest success seen among men. This drop is largely due to improvements in detection, diagnosis and treatments; without research-led advances, the rate of cancer deaths would have risen. This research was released on World Cancer Day on 4 February, and highlights that an estimated one in two people born after 1960 in Britain will be diagnosed with some form of cancer in their lifetime.

Health officials in Britain have warned that deaths from certain cancers, such as liver and pancreatic – linked to lifestyle factors including smoking, drinking and obesity – are rising, and often not detected until reaching an advanced stage.  While the combined death rate for four cancers – lung, bowel, breast and prostate, which cause almost half (46 per cent) of all cancer deaths in the U.K.— have dropped by 11 per cent over the last 10 years.

As the population grows here in the U.K. where people are living longer, cancer is now primarily a disease of old age; the total number of cancer deaths has increased. Now around four-fifths of cancer deaths occur in people aged 65 and over, and more than half occur in those aged 75 and older. Sir Harpal Kumar, CEO, Cancer Research U.K., says, "Too many people are still being diagnosed with and dying from cancer, not just here in the U.K. but around the world. It's important to celebrate how much things have improved, but also to renew our commitment to saving the lives of more cancer patients." 

Cancer has huge global economic repercussions. It’s estimated that every year, cancer costs $290bn (£199bn) to treat. By 2030, that number is expected to increase by more than 35 percent to $458bn (£315bn). Estimates show that more than 30 percent of all cancer deaths could be prevented by changing lifestyle habits from stopping smoking to more exercise and using more sun protection cream. So while it's important to celebrate how much things have improved, science is also renewing its commitment to saving the lives of more cancer patients.

Photo Credit: CRUK