Incidence of the major cancers: by sex, England, 2003
The four most common cancers – breast, lung, colorectal and prostate – accounted for just over half of the 227,500 new cases of malignant cancer (excluding non-melanoma skin cancer) registered in England in 2003. Around 112,700 of the total were in males and 114,700 in females. Breast cancer accounted for 32 per cent of cases among women and prostate cancer for 24 per cent among men.
Cancer is predominantly a disease of the elderly – only 0.5 per cent of cases registered in 2003 were in children (aged under 15) and 26 per cent were in people aged under 60.
Between 1971 and 2003, the age-standardised incidence of cancer increased by around 17 per cent in males and 40 per cent in females.
One in four people die from cancer.
The four most common cancers accounted for just under half of the 126,800 deaths from cancer (excluding non-melanoma skin cancer) in England in 2003. Around 66,000 of the total were in males and 60,800 in females. Cancer accounted for 28 per cent of all deaths in males and 23 per cent in females.
Between 1950 and 2003, age-standardised cancer mortality in England and Wales changed very little. However, mortality from the other main causes - heart disease, stroke and infectious diseases - declined. Consequently, cancer became the most common cause of death in females from 1969 and in males from 1995.
Survival varies by type of cancer and, for each, by a number of factors including sex, age and socio-economic status.
Five-year relative survival is very low for cancers of the pancreas, lung, oesophagus and stomach, in the range 2-15 per cent for patients diagnosed in England in 1998 2001, compared with colon cancer (around 50 per cent), cancers of the bladder, cervix and prostate (53-71 per cent) and breast cancer (80 per cent).
For the majority of cancers, a higher proportion of women than men survived for at least five years after diagnosis. Among adults, the younger the age at diagnosis, the higher the survival for almost every cancer. Survival improved for most cancers in both sexes during the 1990s.
Source: Office for National Statistics
Notes: Detailed results for incidence and mortality have been published in the MB1 and DH2 series, respectively (see "links").
Age-standardised rates allow comparisons between areas or over time where populations have different age structures. The method used here is direct standardisation using the European standard population (see the "Cancer Trends" book, Appendix H, for details).
The registration of non-melanoma skin cancer has varied widely across the cancer registries, depending on both their degree of access to out-patient records and GPs, and their policies and practices on the registration of multiple tumours in one patient. The figures for ‘all malignancies’ therefore exclude non-melanoma skin cancer.
Relative survival estimates survival from the cancer concerned by taking into account mortality from other causes in the general population (of the same age and sex).