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Prostate becomes the most common Cancer in the UK - 10 Years Earlier than Predicted
Thursday, 4th June 2020
Prostate cancer becomes the UK’s most commonly diagnosed cancer –
10 years earlier than predicted
Prostate cancer has become the UK’s most commonly diagnosed cancer for the first time, according to the latest¹ UK-wide statistics² shared by Prostate Cancer UK. This news comes 10 years earlier than previously predicted largely due to increased awareness of the disease in recent years.
Awareness was heightened by the charity’s announcement in 2018 that prostate cancer had overtaken breast cancer to become the third biggest cancer killer and high-profile individuals such as Bill Turnbull and Stephen Fry sharing their experience of the disease. This led to a huge surge in referrals for suspected prostate cancer that year, particularly in England.
The latest figures show that prostate cancer diagnoses have more than doubled³ over the last 20 years alone. This has seen prostate cancer overtake breast, lung and bowel cancer to become the most commonly diagnosed overall with 57,192 diagnoses according to latest annual figures. There are now around 400,000 men in the UK living with or after the disease ⁴.
The figures also show that a higher percentage of cancers were caught at the locally advanced stage (stage III),5 when the disease is far more treatable, showing that increased referrals have the potential to save many more lives.
However, this was accompanied by a similar increase in the proportion diagnosed with low risk prostate cancer (stage I). These cancers may never cause any harm, which could lead to more men experiencing the often life-changing side effects of radical treatments unnecessarily. It is therefore important that men diagnosed at this stage receive support to have their cancer monitored through active surveillance to help mitigate this.
Scientific research into new tests and treatments has meant that a man diagnosed in 2020 will have a much-improved chance of survival compared to 20 years ago6. Despite this, there is still no screening programme for prostate cancer, as current tests such as the PSA blood test are not reliable enough at accurately spotting the disease. Better tests and scans would help bring us closer to a vital screening programme, to ensure all men’s prostate cancers are identified early enough when it’s still possible to cure.
The leading men’s health charity now warns that the Covid-19 crisis has put much of the research needed to tackle the disease at risk, and is calling for support to raise the millions of pounds the charity estimates is needed to get prostate cancer research back on track.
Angela Culhane, Chief Executive at Prostate Cancer UK said: “The number of men with prostate cancer keeps rising and now for the first time ever, it has become the most commonly diagnosed cancer in the UK. We’ve reached this point much earlier than previously predicted, which is in part due to a big increase in awareness of the disease in recent years.
“While it’s good news that more men have been having conversations with their GPs and being diagnosed earlier, it only serves to reinforce the need not only for better treatments which can cure the disease, but for better tests that can differentiate between aggressive prostate cancer that needs urgent treatment and those which are unlikely to ever cause any harm.
“We need research now more than ever, which is why it really is devastating that so much of it has been brought to a standstill by the Covid-19 crisis. Accelerating research to recover from this major setback will cost millions, but at the same time we’re predicting an unprecedented drop in our fundraising due to the impact of the pandemic.
“That’s why we’re asking for the public’s support during this difficult time, to help us secure the future of prostate cancer research.”
Prostate Cancer UK also warns that although diagnoses have been rising for many years, the Covid-19 crisis could cause many cancers to be missed, as the pandemic continues to reduce the number of referrals for suspected prostate cancer.
Culhane continued: “We also know that the Covid-19 pandemic will have knock-on effects on diagnosis and treatment for prostate cancer for some time to come.
“But as services begin to return to normal, it’s important that anyone with concerns about their prostate cancer risk speaks to their GP or contact our Specialist Nurses – particularly if they have any symptoms. Men who are most at risk are those aged 50 and over, black men and men with a family history of the disease.”
Broadcaster and Prostate Cancer UK ambassador Bill Turnbull is supporting the charity’s fundraising appeal to restore research lost due to the Covid-19 crisis and develop a vital screening programme. He said: “It is really very humbling to think that by sharing my prostate cancer experience, I may have helped more men come forward to have those important conversations with their GP and ultimately get diagnosed sooner.
“But with prostate cancer now the UK’s most commonly diagnosed cancer, what we urgently need now is the research to make sure that men get the best tests and treatments possible. Sadly, Covid-19 has interrupted so much of this crucial research, which is why I’m supporting Prostate Cancer UK’s fundraising efforts. It’s a difficult time for many of us, but anything you can do will go a long way to making sure we don’t lose momentum in the fight against prostate cancer.”
Lauren Clark lost her husband, the England cricketing legend Bob Willis, to prostate cancer in December 2019. Joining the charity’s calls for more investment in research to develop better tests for prostate cancer, she said:
“I know only too well the impact prostate cancer has, not just on the men who get it, but their wives, partners and families. This news just goes to show that there is so much that needs to be done, and no time to waste.
“I think the PSA blood test can be a useful indicator for a lot of men, but it wasn’t accurate enough for Bob. We clearly need a better test to determine the severity of prostate cancer much quicker, so that men & families can understand sooner how aggressive or otherwise their disease is.
“I want Bob to have a legacy, and that’s why I’m supporting Prostate Cancer UK’s campaign to get this research back on track and find treatments and tests that will help men like him in the future.”
Prostate Cancer UK is also calling on the government to uphold previous funding commitments to prostate cancer research following the release of this latest UK data which shows the scale of the increase in diagnoses.
Despite traditional fundraising activities being postponed this summer following the Government’s Covid-19 social distancing measures, the charity has a range of virtual activities available on their website that people can choose from to join and donate to the charity.
Find out more about the impact of Covid-19 on research and donate to Prostate Cancer UK at prostatecanceruk.org/fundresearch
For more information, interviews or to speak to a case study please contact Prostate Cancer UK’s media team on 07984 325 001 or email@example.com.
1. Latest data refers to cancer incidence data released up to 2018 for England, Scotland and Northern Ireland and cancer incidence data released up to 2017 for Wales.
2. UK-wide sources for cancer incidence data:
England – Office of National Statistics (ONS) [www.ons.gov.uk]
Scotland – Information Services Division ISD [https://beta.isdscotland.org]
Wales – Wales Cancer Intelligence and Surveillance Unit (WCISU)
Northern Ireland – Queens University Belfast, Northern Ireland Cancer Registry
3. 136% increase is calculated based on the % increase in prostate cancer incidence from England, Scotland and Northern Ireland from 1998 to 2018 (Incidence data not available for 1998-2000 or 2018 for Wales so was not included in this calculation).
4. This figure is an estimation, based on 2015 prevalence data from Scotland, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales:
- Over 325,000 [325,777] men are living with and after prostate cancer in England (PublicHealth/Macmillan partnership - https://lci.macmillan.org.uk/England/all/prevalence )
- Over 27,000 [27,328] men are living with and after prostate cancer in Scotland (ISD Scotland - https://www.isdscotland.org/Health-Topics/Cancer/Cancer-Statistics)
- Around 21,000 [20,968] men are living with and after prostate cancer in Wales (Macmillan WCISU partnership –available at: https://public.tableau.com/views/CancerincidencenumberofnewcasesandprevalencepeoplelivingafteradiagnosisofcancerforclusternetworksinWales/Introduction?:embed=y&:showVizHome=no
- Over 10,000 [10,337] men are living with and after prostate cancer in Northern Ireland (Queens University Belfast, Northern Ireland Cancer Registry (https://www.qub.ac.uk/research-centres/nicr/CancerInformation/official-statistics/)
5. Staging data from Public Health England: Ref: PHE publications gateway number: GW-1047
6. Cancer Research UK survival trends: https://www.cancerresearchuk.org/health-professional/cancer-statistics/statistics-by-cancer-type/prostate-cancer/survival#heading-Zero
About Prostate Cancer UK
- Prostate Cancer UK has a simple ambition – to stop prostate cancer damaging the lives of men and their families.
- Investing into finding better treatments and tests that could save thousands of lives.
- Working with the NHS to make sure men get access to breakthrough tests and treatments.
- Spreading the word about who is at risk of prostate cancer, especially to those at higher risk.
- Supporting people dealing with prostate cancer and providing health information.
- Visit prostatecanceruk.org now to help beat this disease.
About prostate cancer
- More than 11,500 men die from prostate cancer in the UK each year – that's one man every 45 minutes.
- Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men – and now the most commonly diagnosed of all cancers in the UK.
- Prostate cancer mainly affects men over 50 and the risk increases with age. But the risk is higher for black men or men with a family history of prostate cancer, so they may wish to speak to their GP from age 45.
- One in eight men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in their lifetime. This raises to one in four for black men.
- Anyone with concerns about prostate cancer may contact Prostate Cancer UK's Specialist Nurses in confidence on 0800 074 8383 or online via the Live Chat instant messaging service: www.prostatecanceruk.org. The Specialist Nurse phone service is free to landlines and open from 9am to 6pm Monday to Friday, and 10am to 8pm on Wednesdays.
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