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34,000 cancer deaths could be prevented if we make this election a turning point for cancer

Sophie Wedekind
by Sophie Wedekind | Analysis

6 June 2024

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Cancer Research UK supporters standing in front of Parliament wearing shirts that say 'Together we are fighting cancer'


The UK could avoid 34,000 cancer deaths within a decade of the general election on 4 July if the next government takes urgent action to improve cancer outcomes.  

Avoiding these cancer deaths relies on the next UK Government rolling out a long-term, fully funded cancer strategy in England, including policies to back research and better prevent, diagnose and treat cancer. 

Calling for action 

Cancer is the defining health issue of our time, impacting every family in every constituency in the country. And a long-term plan to dramatically improve cancer outcomes has been a consistent call across the cancer community.  

Cancer cases are rising and analysis from Cancer Research UK projects that 2.2 million people in the UK will be diagnosed with cancer within the next parliamentary term. 

To help facilitate progress, Cancer Research UK has published a ‘blueprint’ for change outlined in  Longer, better lives: a manifesto for cancer research and care. If the plans in our manifesto are adopted by the incoming government, the country would be on track to reduce cancer mortality by 15% by 2040.  

“Transforming cancer outcomes in the UK will require strong political will and decisive leadership. The entire cancer community is calling for the next UK government to introduce a cancer plan for England with bold, long-term measures to prevent future cancers and improve survival,” says Michelle Mitchell, chief executive of Cancer Research UK. 

“Urgent action to tackle cancer will mean more life-saving research, more people diagnosed and treated earlier, and ultimately, more people living longer, better lives.” 

Cancer Research UK is also calling on the next UK Government to include the legislation to raise the age of sale of tobacco in the first King’s speech following the election, which would help create the first ever smokefree generation.   

Shannon’s story

Shannon holding her Flame of Hope Award: Volunteer of the year
Shannon at Cancer Research UK's Flame of Hope Awards.

In 2021 Shannon’s mum was diagnosed with brain cancer. During her care, she faced multiple delays in receiving important scan results, which impacted the timings of consultations and possibly limited the options available to her.  

Sadly, Shannon’s mum passed away this year. 

“Having delays for cancer care can be life-changing,” says Shannon.

“Not only could they potentially have affected what treatments my mum was able to have, the time we spent waiting at each stage made her last years so stressful. NHS staff work incredibly hard, but cancer services continue to be under immense pressure.” 

Shannon has worked with Cancer Research UK as a Campaigns Ambassador to help push forward the changes that are urgently needed. This includes speaking to her MP about taking action on cancer. 

“I don’t want families like mine to face the same delays, and government action can make a big difference. We urgently need more staff and equipment for the NHS, and for the government to ensure those resources help cancer patients and their loved ones.” 

Handing in our open letter

In the run up to the election, the charity has been rallying public support for a transformation of cancer research and care. 

Today, campaigners from the charity handed in an open letter to party leaders calling for this election to be a #TurningPointForCancer. The letter has the backing of more than 20,000 supporters, campaigners, scientists and members of the public, including 19 high-profile celebrities including Adele Roberts, Stephen Graham and Daisy Edgar-Jones.  

If the next UK Government commits to the five key pledges the charity has set out in Longer, better lives, it could make a huge difference to improving cancer survival in the UK and prevent 110,000 cancer deaths by 2040. 

Make this election a turning point for cancer

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