Cancer Research UK today announces new figures that reveal a significant drop in UK cancer deaths over the last generation, released to coincide with the launch of the charity’s powerful new ‘All Clear’ campaign.

The latest statistics show a fall of 12 per cent in the rate of cancer deaths over the last thirty years1. The ‘All Clear’ campaign, unveiled today, will highlight how more patients are recovering and how many of those diagnosed with cancer now have a greatly improved chance of survival thanks to research – but how much more still needs to be done to bring the disease under control.

Cancer Research UK scientists predict that the next generation will see the most significant advances yet against many cancers.

The new figures reveal falls in death rates across a number of cancers. In the last generation the rate of women’s deaths from breast cancer have fallen by 20 per cent and men’s deaths from testicular cancer have fallen by 37 per cent.

During the same period the rate of deaths from bowel cancer have fallen by 35 per cent, while deaths from Hodgkin’s disease have fallen by 74 per cent.

Cancer Research UK’s Professor Michel Coleman, head of Epidemiology and Vital Statistics, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, says: “All of these falls in death rates are very encouraging. Progress is being made. But there are still, on average, more than 400 people dying from cancer every day in the UK. The rate of cancer deaths may be falling, but the number of people being diagnosed with cancer is increasing. The funding of research needs to continue and accelerate so that more people survive the disease in the next generation.”

Cancer Research UK has already helped to make big strides forward in the treatment of many cancers – especially breast cancer, testicular cancer and childhood cancers.

Professor Peter Selby, Director of the Cancer Research UK Unit at St James’s Hospital in Leeds, says: “There has been great progress made against many cancers over the last 30 years. The introduction of screening and improvements in chemotherapy over the last generation has had a huge effect. But there are still many cancers that are very difficult to treat successfully.”

“We understand so much more about the disease now than we did a generation ago. But unravelling the disease opens up more and more avenues for the development of new methods of preventing, treating and curing cancer.”

There is still a lot to be done, especially with major advances that are already on the horizon. Ovarian cancer is an example of one area where major improvements in survival should be seen in the future. Over the last generation the rate of women dying from the disease fell by 6 per cent but this is set to improve considerably.

Many women with ovarian cancer do not show symptoms until the disease has spread, making it difficult to treat. Around 30 per cent of women survive for five years or more.

Cancer Research UK is collaborating with the Medical Research Council and the Department of Health to fund UKCTOCS, the UK’s first ovarian cancer screening trial, which is due to complete in 2010.

This trial will determine whether screening can improve early diagnosis and increase long-term survival rates. If so, this will make a strong case for the introduction of a national ovarian cancer screening programme that could save many lives.

This is just one example of the projects the charity funds that potentially may result in a further fall in cancer death rates.

Other areas include boosting our own immune system to attack tumours, development of drugs designed to target the disease at a molecular level, other national screening programmes and a wide range of clinical trials.

The ‘All Clear’ campaign is launched to highlight such positive advances made over the last generation in the battle against cancer and herald the leaps forward expected in the next generation.

The campaign will include television, press, radio, billboard ads and an information website. All 643 Cancer Research UK shops will also prominently display the ads in their windows.

Professor Robert Souhami, Cancer Research UK’s Director of Clinical and External Affairs, says: “Most people rightly no longer view cancer as a death sentence. The numbers of cancer survivors have greatly increased in the last generation. Nevertheless we must accelerate the level of research so that we can continue in collaboration with others to make significant advances against the disease.

“People talk more openly about cancer today compared with 30 years ago. Today most are aware of how to avoid the lifestyle behaviours that cause the disease, like smoking, obesity and excessive alcohol. Such increased awareness coupled with advances in screening and treatment will hopefully save many lives over the next generation.”


  1. age standardised rate per 100,000 population for all cancers (excluding non-melanoma skin cancer) mortality 1972-2002.


By ‘All Clear’ we mean no detectable cancer following treatment.

There are several points at which a person could be given an ‘All Clear’. For example:

  • They may have no detectable disease after their initial treatment.
  • The tests performed in the months and years following treatment confirm that the cancer has not returned.
  • An individual may be given a clear bill of health, years after their initial diagnosis, meaning they are cured of their cancer.
  • The launch of the ‘All Clear’ campaign coincides with the second birthday of Cancer Research UK. The charity was formed in 2002 by the merger of Imperial Cancer Research Fund and the Cancer Research Campaign.

Visit our website CancerHelp UK for easy to understand information about cancer and its treatment. There you can find information on the UKCTOCS trial (UK Collaborative Trial of Ovarian Cancer Screening).

UKCTOCS: Screening for ovarian cancer in the general population. At the moment there is no screening programme for ovarian cancer in the general population. This is because the tests that are used in a screening programme have to be reliable and accurate. Doctors are not sure yet if the tests available at the moment are good enough to detect ovarian cancers early. This trial is the first of its kind and aims to recruit 200,000 women at 13 hospitals across the UK.

In the UKCTOCS trial, scientists are comparing two types of screening tests with no test at all. The women who have screening will either have a CA 125 blood test or a transvaginal ultrasound scan. These tests will be done on women who have been through the menopause.

The aim of the trial is to see if either of these tests will help doctors diagnose women with ovarian cancer when their cancer is at an early stage. If the tests work well enough it could mean that women with ovarian cancer may be diagnosed earlier, and their cancer treated more effectively.

Please note: women are not able to volunteer to take part in this trial. Women are being chosen at random from Health Authority lists and invited to take part.

Cancer Research UK, the Medical Research Council, the Department of Health and the Eve Appeal fund UKCTOCS.

Every year almost 7,000 women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer and over 4,500 die from the disease. It is the fourth most common cause of death from cancer in UK women.

Mortality from some cancers has increased in the last generation (1972-2002). For women, lung cancer has climbed by 55 per cent. This reflects increases in incidence as a result of more women taking up smoking during the 1960s and 1970s. Since the 1950s many men have given up smoking and this has equated to a 47 per cent fall in male lung cancer deaths. However the male rates remain higher than female rates (See appendix one). Deaths from oesophageal cancer have increased mainly because of an increase in the incidence in the diseases.


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