Sharp fall in middle age cancer deaths

Reduction in people smoking ‘a big help’

The number of people in their 50s dying prematurely from cancer in the UK has fallen below 14,000 for the first time in 40 years, according to statistics published today.

The figures, from charity Cancer Research UK, show that cancer deaths in 50-59 year olds have dropped from over 21,300 in 1971 to under 14,000 in 2010 – a fall in rates of 40%.

Cancer Research UK also found that the rates of people in their 50s dying from cancer have dropped from around 310 deaths in every 100,000 in 1971 to around 185 in every 100,000 in 2010.

For men, the cancers which have seen the biggest fall in deaths rates are stomach, Hodgkin’s lymphoma, testicular and lung. For women, death rates have fallen the most for cervical, stomach, Hodgkin’s lymphoma and bowel cancers.

The proportion of people in their 50s who die from stomach cancer and Hodgkin’s lymphoma has fallen by over three-quarters with around 25 in every 100,000 people dying from stomach cancer in 1971 dropping to 4.2 in 2010 and more than two in every 100,000 people dying from Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 1971 compared to 0.5 per 100, 000 in 2010.

Researchers said the ‘dramatic’ drop in 50-59 year olds dying from cancer is likely to be due to a combination of factors, including improvements in treatments, falling smoking rates, the introduction of screening and better delivery of cancer diagnosis and treatment by the NHS.

Professor Peter Johnson, Cancer Research UK’s chief clinician, said the “really encouraging” news highlights the “huge progress” that has been made.

He added: “The reduction in people smoking has been a big help, and we are also better at diagnosing cancers early and better at treating them whether by surgery, radiotherapy or chemotherapy.”

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