Cancer rates to almost double in 20 years as population ages

Unhealthy lifestyles driving increase

Worldwide cancer rates are set to almost double in the next 20 years as unhealthy lifestyle factors drive up rates in developed countries, a study has found.

The study, published in the journal The Lancet Oncology, said that Britain and other developed nations will see a surge in lung, breast, prostate and bowel cancers due to smoking, rising levels of obesity and an ageing population.

Researchers predicted an increase in the number of new cancer cases worldwide from 12.7 million in 2008 to 22.2 million by 2030, a rise of 75%.

They said that falling rates of cancers associated with infections, such as cervical cancers, in developing countries are being offset by rises in the incidence of cancers of the breast, prostate, and bowel.

Study leader Dr Freddie Bray, from the International Agency for Research on Cancer in Lyon, France, said: "Cancer is already the leading cause of death in many high-income countries and is set to become a major cause of morbidity and mortality in the next decades in every nation of the world.

"This study serves as an important reference point in drawing attention to the need for global action to reduce the increasing burden of cancer."

The study used four levels (low, medium, high and very high) of the Human Development Index (HDI) – an indicator of life expectancy, education and GDP – to analyse cancer patterns in 2008 and to produce future scenarios for 2030 according to projected demographic and trend-based changes.

It found that in the highest HDI regions in 2008, cancers of the breast, lung, bowel and prostate accounted for half of all cancer cases.

Last week, Department of Health adviser and cancer GP Dr Nick Summerton said patients should be offered the chance to pay for private bowel cancer tests because NHS waits are too long.

He told GP magazine that access to NHS endoscopy is now so poor that patients should be offered the chance to pay for faster tests.

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