Deaths from four biggest cancer killers fall by a third

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Death rates for four cancers accounting for half of all deaths from the disease in the UK have fallen by almost a third since the early 1990s, new figures reveal today (Monday).

Over the last two decades the combined death rates for breast, bowel, lung and prostate cancer have fallen by 30 per cent.

Cancer Research UK said between 1991 and 1993, 146 people out of every 100,000 could have expected to die from one of the four cancers but between 2010 and 2012 these figures dipped to 102 out of every 100,000.

Over the same period, deaths from all causes of cancer dropped by 21 per cent in Yorkshire.

Experts from the charity today say the figures show that research is having a “powerful impact” on the fight against the disease.

For breast cancer the death rate fell by 38 per cent during the period, while bowel cancer, lung cancer and prostate cancer dipped by 34 per cent, 27 per cent and 21 per cent respectively.

There has been improved detection of breast cancer through routine screening and experts have developed more specialist care and effective treatments, the charity said. Deaths have fallen from 15,000 a year to 11,600 now.

Officials said there have also been improvements in early detection and the development of treatments for patients with bowel cancer, leading to a drop in deaths of 3,000, and the recent introduction of bowel cancer screening is likely to further reduce mortality rates even further.

Improvements in treatment, as well as earlier diagnosis, are thought to have contributed to the reduction in prostate cancer deaths.

But while death rates in lung cancer have fallen, the charity warned that there has little improvement in the outlook for those who are diagnosed with the disease and death rates are rising in women.

It has pledged to improve lung cancer mortality through earlier diagnosis and trials for improved treatments.

But mortality rates in other cancers, including liver, pancreatic, melanoma, oral and some digestive cancers, have increased, the charity said.

Cancer Research UK’s chief executive Harpal Kumar said: “Research continues to help save lives from cancer, and these figures offer renewed encouragement that progress continues.

“The UK remains a world leader in cancer research, responsible for many of the breakthroughs that have reduced the impact of cancer.

“But while the death rate for the four biggest cancer killers falls, it’s vital to remember that more needs to be done to help bring even better results over the coming years.

“There are over 200 different forms of the disease.

“For some of these, the advances are less impressive, such as pancreatic, oesophageal and liver cancer.

“Far too many lives continue to be affected by the disease.

“We’re determined that the research we fund will help save more lives, developing better, kinder treatments which will beat cancer sooner.”