Cancer survival progress in UK ‘slower than it has been for 50 years’


Progress in cancer survival in the UK is now slower than it has been for 50 years, a report suggests.

The Cancer Research UK report warns the UK lags behind comparable countries such as Australia, Canada, Denmark and Norway in tackling the disease.

It comes amid a backdrop of rising cancer cases, with the charity warning cases in the UK will rise by a fifth to around 506,000 by 2038/2040.

The study found cancer waiting times across the country are among the worst on record, with too many cancers diagnosed at a late stage and unequal access to treatment.

To tackle the problem Cancer Research UK said a National Cancer Council for England must be set up to bring down waits and a 10-year strategy launched for prevention, diagnosis and treatment.

Cancer remains the leading cause of death in the UK, causing 25% of all deaths.

Ten-year survival for all cancers combined has doubled since the early 1970s, but progress has slowed over the last decade in particular.

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The report, written by experts from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said the UK’s poor outcomes compared to other countries are likely due to the speed at which people are diagnosed and access to optimal treatments.

“Research also suggests differences in policy between countries may also explain some of this international variation,” it said.

“Countries with consistent cancer policies have seen the greatest improvements in cancer survival between 1995 and 2014.”

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Around four in 10 cancer cases in the UK are preventable, with these cases driven by smoking, obesity, sun exposure, alcohol intake, poor diets and lack of exercise, the report added.

Across the UK, lung, bowel, melanoma skin and breast cancers account for almost two-thirds (63%) of all preventable cancer cases.

When it comes to treatment for the disease, monthly data shows cancer targets continue to be missed across the NHS in England.

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Cancer Research UK chief executive, Michelle Mitchell, said: “Cancer survival in the UK is at the highest point it’s ever been, which shows that together, we’re making progress on beating cancer.

“It’s worrying that the rate of improvement has slowed in recent years though, and cancer patients today face anxious and historically long waits for tests and treatments.

“Almost one in two people across the UK will get cancer in their lifetime. The number of new cases each year is growing.

“Beating cancer requires real political leadership and must be a priority for all political parties ahead of a general election.”

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