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Women’s cancer rates rising faster than men’s

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by Cancer Research UK | News

3 February 2017

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World Cancer Day Unity Wall

Cancer rates will climb nearly six times faster in women than in men over the next 20 years, according to the latest figures released today by Cancer Research UK, ahead of World Cancer Day.

“Research is at the heart of finding ways to reduce cancer’s burden and ensure more people survive, particularly for hard-to-treat cancers where the outlook for patients is still bleak. We need to keep working hard to reduce the devastating impact cancer can have on so many families.”Sir Harpal Kumar

It is projected that UK cancer rates will increase by around half a per cent for men and by around three per cent for women.* This will mean that by 2035 an estimated 4.5 million women and 4.8 million men will be diagnosed with cancer in the 20 year period.**  

Smoking and obesity are part of the reason for the faster rising rates for women as several of the obesity-related cancer types only affect women. Widespread smoking among women happened later than men and smoking continues to have a big effect on the number of cancer cases diagnosed each year. 

The latest figures also show the global burden of cancer has reached an estimated 7.4 million men and an estimated 6.7 million women being diagnosed worldwide each year.

Cancer is the leading cause of death in the world accounting for an estimated 8.2 million deaths in 2012 and around 15 per cent of all deaths.***

Specific cancer types are leading to this rise in women, including, ovarian, cervical and oral cancers where rates are predicted to rise the most over the next 20 years. 

To illustrate the faster rising cancer rates in women, Cancer Research UK designed and installed a giant colouring wall in Bluewater shopping centre. People passing by were encouraged to join in one incredible Act of Unity by wearing a Unity Band and colouring in a section of the Unity Wall to show their support ahead of World Cancer Day.

Among the first people to colour in the Unity Wall were Amanda Baker, from Tunbridge Wells, and her grandson Archie.

Amanda, 55, was diagnosed with advanced ovarian cancer in 2008, said: “It’s unusual to survive for more than five years if you’re diagnosed at a late stage like I was. By the time I went to the doctor with my symptoms – abdominal swelling, breathlessness and feeling incredibly tired – the cancer had spread. I had five sessions of chemotherapy, a hysterectomy, more surgery to remove my ovaries and part of my cervix, and another two sessions of chemotherapy which meant I lost my hair. It was distressing but I knew the treatment was a necessity and so I tried to stay positive.

“My daughter Vicky also has the same faulty BRCA2 gene that I do and I’m determined to talk about my cancer to take away some of the fear around it.

“And this story shows just how important it is to fund research into new and better treatments. Thanks to organisations like Cancer Research UK, more treatments for cancer are coming.”

The four most common cancer types across the world – breast, prostate, lung and bowel – account for more than half (53 per cent) of new cases of cancer each year in the UK.

Sir Harpal Kumar, Cancer Research UK’s chief executive, said: “These new figures reveal the huge challenge we continue to face, both in the UK and worldwide. Research is at the heart of finding ways to reduce cancer’s burden and ensure more people survive, particularly for hard-to-treat cancers where the outlook for patients is still bleak. We need to keep working hard to reduce the devastating impact cancer can have on so many families.

 “The latest figures show that more than 8 million people die from cancer each year across the world. More people die from cancer than AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis put together. With more investment into research, we hope to make big improvements over the next 20 years in diagnosing the disease earlier and improving and developing treatments so that by 2034, three in four people will survive their disease.”

As the number of men and women being diagnosed with cancer continues to surge, Cancer Research UK is funding research across the country to find better treatments and ways to diagnose the disease early when treatment is more likely to be successful.

For example, in Cambridge, Cancer Research UK scientists are studying whether DNA from ovarian cancer cells captured in a blood test can indicate how well treatment is working. This research could mean that women are given tailored treatments that are more effective based on the faulty genes driving their disease.

Cancer Research UK is urging people to join forces in one incredible Act of Unity tomorrow for World Cancer Day 2017. Together the nation will accelerate progress in the fight against cancer by raising vital funds towards the prevention, detection and treatment of cancer. Anyone can play their part by donating or wearing a specially designed Unity Band®, available from all Cancer Research UK shops and online. Every Unity Band worn, every pound donated and everyone who shows their support will play an important part in a lifesaving story.

The Unity Band® represents strength in unity. By wearing the band this World Cancer Day people are not just showing their support for everyone affected by cancer but uniting with the nation to beat cancer sooner.

Calculated by the Statistical Information Team at Cancer Research UK, 2016, by summing the projected number of cases diagnosed for all cancers combined in the UK between 2015-2035, for males and females. Based on Cancer incidence and mortality projections in the UK until 2035. Smittenaar et al, 2016.