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Cancer rates rise in middle-aged

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by Cancer Research UK | News

18 July 2011

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CANCER rates in middle-aged men and women in Great Britain have gone up by nearly 20 per cent in a generation – an increase of 17,000 cases a year – according to new figures released today (Monday) by Cancer Research UK.

And among women in their forties and fifties cancer rates have risen by more than 25 per cent.

In 1979 44,000 people, aged 40-59, were diagnosed with cancer in Britain but the latest figures for 2008 show almost 61,000 people in the same age group have been struck by the disease. And the cancer incidence rates in this age group have increased from 329 per 100,000 to 388 per 100,000.

Cases of cancer in men have risen from almost 20,000 in 1979 to almost 24,000 in 2008 while in women cases have increased from more than 24,000 to more than 36,500.*

But despite such an alarming increase in people getting cancer, the number surviving the disease is better than ever before as figures show survival has doubled since the 70s. But there is still much more to do to combat the rising number of cancer sufferers in middle age as well as later in life.

As Cancer Research UK launches its new national TV advertising campaign today the charity’s message is clear: valuable publicly funded research has enabled more people to beat cancer. But as tens of thousands continue to develop the disease more money is needed to identify effective ways of prevention and better treatments for patients.

The increasing number of people being diagnosed with cancer is, in part, due to the NHS breast screening programme and the PSA test for prostate cancer. Screening will detect more cancers at an earlier stage and this means treatment is more likely to be successful.

Among 40-59 year olds, prostate cancer rates** have risen sixfold in 30 years and breast cancer rates*** have increased by 50 per cent. But cases of lung cancer in men of this age have dropped from 6,300 to around 2,700.****

Nisha Sidhu, a mother of three from Ascot, Berkshire, appears in the TV advertisement which is launched today. Nisha was just 41 years old when she noticed a lump in her breast while taking a shower three years ago.

“I didn’t tell any of the family but after a couple of weeks I went to the doctor. Even when I was sent for a mammogram I was in denial about what it could be. I felt very well, had no other symptoms and there was no breast cancer in my family.”

Nisha had a mammogram and biopsy before being given the news she had breast cancer. “I just hadn’t thought it could be cancer and had gone for the tests with my four year old son. It was a real shock but I knew I just had to get on with the treatment.”

After a lumpectomy and chemotherapy Nisha is now on a course of tamoxifen and she runs a support group where she has met other middle aged breast cancer survivors. “I hadn’t realised how many women in their forties and fifties are being diagnosed. I am doing Relay for Life to raise money for Cancer Research UK and I want to help raise awareness among women that they should go to the doctor at the first sign of any change in their breast.”

Harpal Kumar, Cancer Research UK’s chief executive, said: “There has been undeniable progress in the treatment of cancer over the last 40 years and many more people are surviving the disease. But we must redouble our efforts to ensure that our research continues to discover new techniques to improve and refine diagnosis and treatment so that cancer survival becomes the norm for patients, irrespective of the cancer they have or their age at diagnosis.

“It is entirely due to the amazing generosity of the public that we are able to support the work of the 4,000 dedicated doctors, nurses and scientists who continue to unlock the secrets of a disease that affects us all. As cancer incidence rises and the economy tightens, we need their support now more than ever.”


For media enquiries contact the Cancer Research UK press office on 020 3469 8300, or the out of hours’ duty press officer on 07050 264059.