25-Year UK Trends in Cancer Incidence and Mortality

25-Year UK Trends in Cancer Incidence and Mortality

Cancer remains a significant public health challenge worldwide, with its impact extending across generations. A recent study sheds light on the evolving landscape of cancer in the UK over the past 25 years. Their retrospective analysis, focusing on adults aged 35-69, offers valuable insights into cancer trends, highlighting both progress and areas that require continued attention.

Increasing Incidence, Decreasing Mortality

One of the key findings of the study is the notable increase in cancer incidence among adults in the specified age group. The number of cancer cases rose by 57% for men and 48% for women between 1993 and 2018. This increase was primarily driven by rising rates of prostate cancer in men and breast cancer in women. However, when these two cancers were excluded from the analysis, overall cancer trends remained relatively stable.

Despite the increase in cancer incidence, the study also reports a significant decrease in cancer mortality rates over the same period. Cancer deaths decreased by 20% in men and 17% in women. This decline in mortality rates is attributed to advancements in cancer prevention, early detection, diagnostic tools, and treatment options.

Notable Trends in Specific Cancers

While the overall trends are positive, the study highlights concerning increases in the incidence rates of certain less common cancers, such as melanoma skin, liver, oral, and kidney cancers. These findings underscore the need for targeted prevention and early detection strategies for these specific cancer types.

On the other hand, the study reports significant decreases in mortality rates for stomach, mesothelioma, and bladder cancers in men, and stomach, cervical, and non-Hodgkin lymphoma in women. These reductions demonstrate the impact of effective interventions and advancements in cancer care.

Mesothelioma is a rare and aggressive cancer that primarily affects the lining of the lungs (pleural mesothelioma) or the abdomen (peritoneal mesothelioma). It is caused by exposure to asbestos fibers, with symptoms often not appearing until decades after exposure. Mesothelioma is challenging to diagnose and treat, with a poor prognosis due to its aggressive nature and often late-stage diagnosis.

Treatment options may include surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy, but the effectiveness of these treatments can vary depending on the stage of the cancer and other factors. Ongoing research is focused on developing more effective treatments and improving outcomes for individuals affected by mesothelioma.

Implications for the Future

The findings of this study provide a valuable benchmark for future research and policy development. They underscore the importance of ongoing efforts to prevent, detect, and treat cancer. Additionally, the study serves as a baseline for evaluating the impact of external factors, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, on cancer trends and outcomes in the coming years.

In conclusion, this new study offers a comprehensive analysis of cancer trends in the UK over the past 25 years. While the increase in cancer incidence presents challenges, the significant reduction in mortality rates reflects substantial progress in cancer care. Moving forward, continued investment in cancer prevention, early detection, and treatment is crucial to further improve outcomes and reduce the burden of cancer on individuals and society.


Shelton, Jon, Ewa Zotow, Lesley Smith, Shane A. Johnson, Catherine S. Thomson, Amar Ahmad, Lars Murdock, Diana Nagarwalla, and David Forman. “25 Year Trends in Cancer Incidence and Mortality among Adults Aged 35-69 Years in the UK, 1993-2018: Retrospective Secondary Analysis.” BMJ (Clinical Research Ed.) 384 (March 13, 2024): e076962. https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj-2023-076962.


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