18 July 2016
Although considerable progress has been made in the treatment of cancer over the last few decades, it remains one of the most dangerous diseases affecting people in the UK and a leading cause of mortality.
This fact has been underlined by the latest official government data from the Office of National Statistics, which has demonstrated that cancer remains the most common cause of death in England and Wales.
There were around 148,000 cancer-related deaths registered in England and Wales in 2015, meaning the disease accounted for 28 per cent of all recorded deaths last year, ahead of circulatory diseases such as heart diseases and stroke, which made up 26 per cent of all cases of mortality. Respiratory diseases were the third biggest cause, accounting for 14 per cent of deaths.
In total, there were 529,655 deaths from all causes recorded in England and Wales in 2015, an increase of 5.6 per cent compared with 2014. Provisional data from Scotland and Wales suggest that similar rises have also been seen in those countries.
This increase in deaths is not necessarily bad news in and of itself; indeed, average life expectancy has been rising for a number of years, leading to the population increasing in both size and age over time. This makes a higher number of mortalities inevitable.
Commenting on the new figures, Cancer Research UK also pointed out that although cancer remains the number one killer in England and Wales, cancer survival rates are generally improving, having doubled in the past 40 years. Nevertheless, there remains a substantial need for new and better approaches to guaranteeing the best possible patient outcomes on a national level.
Emma Greenwood, Cancer Research UK's head of policy, said: "These figures are a powerful reminder of the scale of death caused by cancer in England and Wales."
She added: "Earlier diagnosis, access to the right treatment at the right time and preventing the disease through lifestyle changes such as quitting smoking all play a vital role in beating cancer."
Currently, 50 per cent of people diagnosed with cancer in England and Wales survive their disease for ten years or more, which is considerably better than the 24 per cent rate that existed four decades ago.
However, there remain a number of inequalities that need to be addressed, such as the fact that women are generally more likely to survive than men, or the wide variety in survival rates between different forms of cancer. For testicular cancer, for example, survival rates are as high as 98 per cent, but conversely they fall to only one per cent for those with pancreatic cancer. Also of great concern is the fact that people from poorer areas tend to be much less likely to survive for a prolonged period, underlining the need for everyone across the country to be granted access to efficient, timely diagnoses and a consistent quality of care.
Posted by Philip Briggs
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