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Cancer is the biggest premature killer

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by Cancer Research UK | News

3 November 2011

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Cancer is responsible for killing 40 per cent of all the men and women who die prematurely between the ages of 25 and 74 in the UK – according to a new analysis of the figures released today by Cancer Research UK.

This means cancer causes more untimely deaths than any other disease including coronary heart disease, stroke and AIDS as well as traffic accidents, suicide and murder.

But there is good news too. Despite the rise in the number of people developing cancer, death rates from the disease have fallen dramatically over the last forty years. And there are more people surviving cancer than ever before thanks to new research finding better treatments.

And, the better we get at spotting the early signs of cancer, the easier the disease is to treat meaning, the numbers that survive cancer are going to keep on rising.

Across all age groups (1-85+) cancer kills around 73,000 more people each year than coronary heart disease and around 78,000 more than the respiratory diseases. These three diseases are the main causes of death in the UK.

Lung cancer is the biggest cancer killer, causing around 35,000 deaths a year followed by bowel cancer (around 16,000) and then breast cancer (around 11,700).

Professor Peter Johnson, Cancer Research UK’s chief clinician, said: “We have had great success in reducing the death rate from many types of cancer in the last decade. But far too many people are still dying from this devastating disease and we clearly have much more work to do.”

Pancreatic and lung cancer have the lowest five year survival rates – with only around 4 per cent of people surviving pancreatic cancer for more than 5 years and around 7 per cent surviving lung cancer for at least five years.

Dr Julie Sharp, senior science information manager at Cancer Research UK, said: “Cancer is the disease that kills more people than any other major illness. Even though we have made tremendous progress in improving the chance of surviving the disease in the last 40 years – these figures serve as a reminder of the huge amount of work still left to do.

“We must redouble our efforts to ensure that our research continues to find new ways to improve and refine diagnosis and treatment so that cancer becomes a disease people live with rather than die from, irrespective of the type of cancer or their age.

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