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Cancer Research UK welcomes the publication of the new ONS Cancer Atlas

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by Cancer Research UK | News

5 July 2005

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The Cancer Atlas of the United Kingdom and Ireland 1991-2000 illustrates the geographical patterns in both incidence and mortality for all of the major cancers, and relates them to known risk factors and to levels of socio-economic deprivation.

The atlas contains charts at the country and region of England level, and maps at the health authority level, for 21 common cancers (and for all cancers combined). It was produced by staff at the National Cancer Intelligence Centre at the Office for National Statistics (ONS) with the collaboration of many experts, mostly from the cancer registries of the UK and Ireland.

Dr Lesley Walker, Director of Cancer Information at Cancer Research UK, says:

“These statistics highlight the number of cancer cases and deaths that are preventable. They estimate that if every part of the UK had the same incidence and mortality rates as the healthiest areas, 25,580 cases and 17,450 deaths could be avoided.

“In fact, we know that half of all cancers – equivalent to around 135,000 cases a year in the UK – could be prevented by changes to lifestyle. Cancer Research UK’s Reduce the Risk campaign, launched in January this year, invites people to take positive steps in five key areas to reduce their risk of cancer: Stop smoking, Stay in shape, Eat and drink healthily, Be SunSmart and Look after number one – know your body and go for screening when invited.”

Exposure to secondhand smoke at work causes more than 600 deaths each year across the UK. The proposed smokefree legislation stands to reduce this toll, but the current exemptions for private clubs and pubs that do not serve ‘prepared’ food will leave many thousands of hospitality workers exposed to secondhand smoke and could increase health inequalities across the country.

Cancer Research UK has today joined forces with a wide range of health bodies to form ‘Smokefree Action’ – a coalition that is urging the UK Government to protect all workers from the dangers of secondhand smoke by introducing comprehensive smokefree legislation in all workplaces and enclosed public places as soon as possible.

Cancer Research UK’s Chief Executive, Professor Alex Markham, says:

“All workers have a right to work in a smokefree environment, and a comprehensive ban on smoking in enclosed public places – without exemptions – is the only practical way we can give them the protection they deserve.

“Ireland has shown that smokefree legislation works best when it contains as few exemptions as possible. Scotland’s courage in adopting similarly comprehensive legislation sets yet another example to Westminster. The Smokefree Action coalition urges the UK Government to follow suit and protect all workers from the dangers of secondhand smoke.”


Smoking causes nearly all cases of lung cancer and is a major risk factor for at least 12 other types of cancer including mouth, throat, food pipe (oesophagus), stomach, kidney, bladder and pancreatic cancer.

Our diet influences our risk of stomach and bowel cancer and is likely to be important for cancer of the lung and food pipe. It may also affect our risk of breast, prostate, bladder, mouth and throat cancers.

Over exposure to the sun causes skin cancer and the number of cases is increasing. A history of sunburn can double the risk of skin cancer.

Drinking too much alcohol over time increases your risk of cancer of the mouth, throat, voicebox (larynx), food pipe and liver. Alcohol and smoking combined greatly increases the risk of these cancers. Excess alcohol increases the risk of breast cancer.

Breast screening is offered to women between 50 and 70 and cervical screening is available for women aged 25-64. Screening can pick up changes early on and maximises the chance of successful treatment.

A national bowel screening programme – to be implemented in 2006 – is expected to greatly reduce mortality from bowel cancer.