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Annual prostate cancer deaths now top those for breast cancer, says charity

Ageing population and much lower levels of research and funding explain figures

Caroline White

Friday, 02 February 2018

Annual deaths from prostate cancer now exceed those for breast cancer, indicate figures released today by charity Prostate Cancer UK.

While an ageing population is a factor in the figures, so too are the levels of research and cash devoted to the disease, insists the charity.

The new statistics reveal that 11,819 men die from prostate cancer every year in the UK, compared to 11,442 women who die from breast cancer, meaning that prostate cancer is now the third most common cancer death, after lung and bowel cancers.

Since 1999, the number of women dying from breast cancer has fallen steadily but prostate cancer deaths are still on the rise, says the charity.

Since 1999, breast cancer has benefitted from a screening programme, significant investments in research and more than double the number of published studies compared to those for prostate cancer, it says.

The prospects for men with prostate cancer are actually better than ever before, with men diagnosed today two-and-a-half times more likely to live for 10 years or more than if they were diagnosed in 1990.

Yet due mainly to an increasing and ageing population, the number of men dying from the disease is growing, it says.

"It’s incredibly encouraging to see the tremendous progress that has been made in breast cancer over recent years. But with half the investment and half the research, it’s not surprising that progress in prostate cancer is lagging behind,” said Prostate Cancer UK’s chief executive, Angela Culhane.

"The good news is that many of these developments could be applied to prostate cancer and we’re confident that with the right funding, we can dramatically reduce deaths within the next decade."

The charity estimates that around £120 million of research funding will be needed over the next eight years to reverse the trend and halve the number of expected prostate cancer deaths by 2026.

"Plans to create an accurate test fit for use as part of a nationwide prostate cancer screening programme, as well as developing new treatments for advanced prostate cancer are already well underway. But to achieve these aims, we need to increase our investment in research,” added Ms Culhane.

Another area where men are getting a raw deal is male breast cancer, says the Breast International Group. Because the disease is about 100 times less common among men than among women, men are usually excluded from clinical trials, and doctors often extrapolate treatment from studies applied to women, meaning that around a third of those diagnosed with the disease don’t get the right treatment, it says.

“Men often suffer additional stress when they learn from their doctor that little is known about the disease and that they will be treated like their female counterparts,” says Dr Fatima Cardoso, co-principal investigator of the International Male Breast Cancer Programme and director of the Breast Unit at the Champalimaud Clinical Centre, Lisbon, Portugal.

“This needs to change. Further research is urgently needed to better understand this rare disease and find adequate treatments for men.”

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