Cancer Statistics: In Detail

Published Wednesday, September 30, 2015

How has the prevalence of cancer in the UK changed over time? How does it vary between different UK countries and regions? Which cancers are most common? How do mortality rates vary by age and location? How do survival rates vary between cancers?

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  • Age-standardised cancer incidence has grown steadily since 1995.
  • The most common cancers are prostate (men), breast (women), and lung and colorectal (both genders). These cancers account for over half of all cancers in each gender.
  • Cancer incidence rates are substantially higher among older people.
  • Between the ages of 20 and 59, women are more likely to contract cancer than men. After this the balance shifts: from age 60 onwards, men become increasingly more likely to contract cancer than women.
  • Scottish male cancer incidence rates are the lowest in the UK, whilst female rates are the highest. Wales has the highest male incidence rates, whilst Northern Ireland has the lowest female rates.


  • Cancer death rates have steadily fallen in the last twenty years. Rates among men are approximately 38% higher than among women.
  • Cancer accounts for more than 50% of deaths among women between the ages of 50 and 69.
  • Cancer mortality rates are highest in Scotland, without much difference between the rates of other UK countries.


  • Around half of adult cancer patients diagnosed in England in Wales in 2010-11 are expected to survive for 10 years or more.
  • Survival rates vary vastly between specific types of cancer. 87% of breast cancer patients survive for five years after diagnosis, but around 10% of lung cancer patients survive this period.
  • Survival rates are much lower for patients diagnosed through emergency presentation. Of major cancers, colorectal (25%) and lung (38%) have particularly high rates of diagnosis through emergency presentation.


  • 76% of women aged 53-64 have undergone a breast screening test in the past three years. 13% of eligible women – half a million – have never had a screening.
  • 78% of eligible women aged 25-64 have had a cervical screening test in the past five years.

For a shorter summary of cancer statistics, see SN06877, Cancer Statistics in Brief

Commons Briefing papers SN02677

Authors: Alex Bate; Carl Baker

Topics: Diseases, Health services

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