Cancer cases in unhealthy UK to soar by third

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New cases of cancer could rise by nearly a third in the UK by 2030, experts warn today.

The UK ranks 16th out of 27 countries in the European Union for the predicted rise in cases, according to the data published by the World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF).

In 2030 there will be 396,000 new cases of cancer in the UK, estimates suggest, compared with 304,000 new cases in 2008 – a 30 per cent rise.

This data differs to figures from the charity Cancer Research UK in October, which predicted the number of new cancer cases in the UK could rise by 45 per cent between 2007 and 2030 to 432,000 a year.

The new league table of 27 EU member states is based on World Health Organisation estimates for new cancer cases in 2030 and leaves Ireland with the biggest predicted rise at 72 per cent.

Cyprus comes second (55 per cent), followed by Luxembourg (53 per cent) and Malta (49 per cent). The rises are down to a number of factors, in particular an ageing population.

Higher income countries also tend to have higher levels of obesity and alcohol consumption and lower levels of exercise, which increase the risk of developing cancer.

Eastern Europe is expected to see a less steep rise in the number of people aged 65 or over, helping explain why these countries fall to the bottom of the table.

Rachel Thompson, deputy head of science at the WCRF, said: “We know people in high-income countries such as those in Western Europe are more likely to be overweight, to drink a lot and to be relatively inactive.

“There is strong evidence that these factors increase the risk of several common cancers.

“But many of these new cases could be prevented and lifestyle changes can make a real difference.

“In fact, scientists estimate that about a third of the most common cancers in the UK and other high income countries could be prevented by maintaining a healthy weight, being more physically active and eating more healthily.

“Unfortunately, these figures are just as bad, if not worse, in non-European countries and the predicted increase in global cancer cases between 2008 and 2030 is 67 per cent – from 12.6 million to 21.2 million.

“This is due to an increase in the adult population as well as an ageing population.”

The figures are released to coincide with World Cancer Day.

Ciaran Devane, chief executive of Macmillan Cancer Support, said: “We know the numbers of people getting this disease is increasing and these figures by the World Cancer Research Fund should signal alarm bells for the NHS and how we plan future cancer services.

“Macmillan Cancer Support’s own research showed that four in 10 people will now get cancer in their lifetime.

“After treatment ends, many patients feel abandoned by the NHS as they struggle to cope with the long-term effects of cancer treatment.

“The NHS really needs to recognise cancer’s long-term impact on people’s lives, to plan better services and to develop more personalised care.

“We need services which keep people well and at home, not services which sort the problem when people arrive at A&E.”

A Department of Health spokesman said: “This data shows the challenges we face from an ageing population and the rising burden of cancer.

“That is why we are investing more than £750m over the next four years to make sure people are diagnosed with cancer earlier and have better access to the latest treatments.”

mike.waites@ypn.co.uk