Prostate cancer now most common cancer diagnosis, new figures show

Public Health England credits stars such as Stephen Fry and Bill Turnbull for raising profile of disease

Monday 27 January 2020 23:37
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Stephen Fry (left) and Bill Turnbull have both gone public about their prostate cancer diagnoses
Stephen Fry (left) and Bill Turnbull have both gone public about their prostate cancer diagnoses

Prostate cancer has become the most commonly diagnosed cancer in England, provisional official figures show.

There were 49,029 diagnoses of prostate cancer in 2018 – 7,828 more than in the previous year, according to cancer incidence data from Public Health England (PHE).

It means the disease has overtaken breast cancer as the most commonly diagnosed a decade earlier than experts had predicted.

The data also shows that there were more cancers diagnosed in 2018 in males than females – 165,228 versus 151,452. This means an average of 868 invasive cancers were diagnosed each day.

Just over half (54.0%) of all registrations were either breast, prostate, lung or bowel cancer.

PHE said the increase in registrations of invasive cancers in males was mainly down to the “Fry and Turnbull effect” in prostate cancer. Stephen Fry and Bill Turnbull went public with their diagnoses in early 2018, raising awareness in the process.

Heather Blake, the director of support and influencing at Prostate Cancer UK, said: “The dramatic increase in diagnoses between 2017 and 2018 is likely a reflection of the surge in referrals sparked by the announcement that prostate cancer had become the third biggest cancer killer and high-profile individuals such as Stephen Fry and Bill Turnbull sharing their experience of the disease.

“It is a good thing that awareness of this killer disease is increasing, and more men are taking control by discussing it with their GP.”

Lynda Thomas, chief executive of Macmillan Cancer Support, said: “While it’s good news that more people are seeing their doctor to check for cancer, these increasing numbers come at a time when our NHS and social care services are hanging by a thread.”

She added: “It’s more urgent than ever that the new Government prioritises a plan to grow and fund a cancer workforce fit for the future before the system completely collapses.”

NHS clinical director for cancer Professor Peter Johnson said: “As people live longer, we're likely to see prostate cancer diagnosed more often, and with well-known figures like Rod Stewart, Stephen Fry and Bill Turnbull all talking openly about their diagnosis, more people will be aware of the risk.

“The NHS Long Term Plan is ramping up action to catch tens of thousands more cancers at early stages, and more people coming forward for checks and care means the disease increasingly is detected at an early stage, when treatment is most successful and survival chances are highest.”

The full data will be released in the spring.

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