Cancer Research UK is forecasting that one in two people in the UK will develop cancer at some point in their lives. The research was recently published in the British Journal of Cancer and the new data highlights the urgent need to boost the NHS cancer services so it has the ability to cope with a population that is both growing and ageing. This means there is looming demand for improved diagnostics, earlier diagnosis and treatment.
Survival rates have doubled
Largely as a result of research, cancer survival rates have doubled in the UK over the last 40 years and nearly 50 per cent of patients now survive the disease for more than a decade. However as a larger number of people benefit from longer life expectancy and better healthcare, it is expected that the number of cancer cases will inevitably increase. The new research estimates that lifetime risk will now be 1 in 2 people will be diagnosed with cancer.
Age the biggest risk factor
The latest estimate replaces a previous one which was calculated using a different technique and predicted more than 1 in 3 would develop cancer at some point in their lives. The biggest risk factor for most cancers is age and the increase in risk is largely because people are simply living longer when cancer becomes more common.
According to the author of the study Professor Peter Sasieni of Queen Mary University of London:
“Cancer is primarily a disease of old age, with more than 60 per cent of all cases diagnosed in people aged over 65. If people live long enough then most will get cancer at some point. But there’s a lot we can do to make it less likely – like giving up smoking, being more active, drinking less alcohol and maintaining a healthy weight. If we want to reduce the risk of developing the disease we must redouble our efforts and take action now to better prevent the disease for future generations.”
The NHS needs to plan for the future
Harpal Kumar who is the chief executive of Cancer Research adds that because we are living longer we are more likely to develop a number of diseases that are simply age related. This means there is a need to plan for the future to ensure that the NHS is able to cope. If the NHS fails to act and invest now, there will be a future crisis with outcomes from cancer regressing.