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Half a million people a year will be diagnosed with cancer by 2035

Study predicts an additional 150,000 cases per year in 20 years’ time

Ingrid Torjesen

Wednesday, 12 October 2016

Five hundred thousand people will be diagnosed with cancer each year in the UK by 2035 if trends continue, according a study* published in the British Journal of Cancer.

More than 352,000 people are diagnosed with cancer each year in the UK but the study predicts that an additional 150,000 will be diagnosed each year in 20 years. The study by Cancer Research UK researchers estimates that by 2035 that nearly 244,000 cases of cancer will be diagnosed in women and more than 270,000 in men each year - up from around 173,000 and around 179,000 today. 

Breast cancer is predicted to be the most prevalent cancer in women and prostate cancer in men.

The researchers said that their estimates underline the urgent need to plan for the future of NHS cancer services, which are already stretched.

Dr Rebecca Smittenaar, lead author and Cancer Research UK’s statistics manager, said: “The number of people getting cancer in the UK will increase sharply in the next two decades. This is mostly the result of an ageing and growing population but, for women, lifestyle factors are playing an increasingly important role.

“And worryingly, recent research found that three quarters of the population don’t know there’s a link between obesity and cancer even though it’s the second biggest preventable cause of the disease – currently linked to around 18,100 cases per year. If things carry on as they are, this is also set to rise.”

Professor Peter Johnson, Cancer Research UK’s chief clinician, said: “There is no getting away from the fact that we’re seeing ever increasing numbers of people being diagnosed with cancer each year, and these numbers are quite alarming. It is vital that people know how to reduce their own risk of cancer as much as possible.

“But in addition the National Health Service needs to be planning now for the increased demands for the diagnosis, treatment and care for people with cancer. We have a serious shortage of specialists in important fields such as radiology, endoscopy and oncology. It’s vital that the necessary staff and resources are available to ensure a high standard of care for patients across the UK.”

* Smittenaar CR, et al. Cancer incidence and mortality projections in the UK until 2035. British Journal of Cancer,advance online publication 11 October 2016. doi: 10.1038/bjc.2016.304

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