It is believed that historically rising rates of alcohol consumption have contributed to the increase / Getty Images


Rates of liver cancer have increased by 70 per cent for men and 60 per cent for women in just 10 years, while skin cancer rates have also soared, new figures have shown.

The latest findings from the Office for National Statistics reveal that in England there were just under 2,500 new cases of liver cancer for men in 2012, and more than 1,400 in women. It is now the 18th most common cancer in England.

Rates throughout the UK have trebled since the 1970s, with most of the increase occurring in the early 1990s, but its continued rise has shown no signs of abating.

Although the causes are complex, it is believed that historically rising rates of alcohol consumption have contributed to the rise. While population-wide levels of drinking have begun to drop in recent years, the impact on liver cancer will be delayed because the disease is more likely to affect people as they get older.

The rise in skin cancer rates, meanwhile, has been attributed to long-term increases in the number of British people able to afford holidays in sunnier countries abroad. The advent and increased use of sunbeds has also contributed. Latest figures show that malignant melanoma skin cancer rates have increased by 78 per cent in men and 48 per cent in women over the past decade in England – with nearly 11,300 new cases in 2012.

Ciarán Devane, chief executive of Macmillan Cancer Support said that the rise in skin cancer rates was “shocking”.

“This makes it now the fifth most common cancer in England,” he said. “The increase in the number of people getting this potentially fatal disease should be a wake-up call to the Government that cancer has not been ‘fixed’ in this country. We have some of the poorest survival rates for cancer in Europe and Macmillan is calling on all the political parties to prioritise cancer ahead of the next general election.”

In their latest data release today, the ONS confirmed that the three most common cancers for men in 2012 remained prostate cancer, which represented 30 per cent of all cancers, lung cancer, at 14 per cent, and colorectal cancer at 13 per cent. For women the most common cancers remain: breast cancer, at 31 per cent, lung cancer at 12 per cent and colorectal cancer at 11 per cent.

A north-south divide in cancer rates also persisted into 2012 – cancer incidence was more than five per cent higher than expected in the north of England, and more than five per cent lower than expected in London.