NEWS: UK Cancer Rates Continue to Rise

Published 19 Feb 2016

The latest figures for breast cancer rates in women in the United Kingdom (1) show that the number of newly diagnosed cases each year (53,352 in 2013) increased by 7.1% since 2010, and the age standardised incidence rate has increased by 2.8%.

In contrast, the age standardised breast cancer mortality rate dropped 5.6% between 2009 and 2012 (2012 is the latest available figure). This encouraging statistic represents a continuing trend for increased survival rates for many cancers and is likely to be due to improved treatments, earlier diagnosis and screening programmes.

But why do breast cancer incidence rates continue to increase? Cancer experts quoted in recent media reports suggest that the predominant reasons for the general increase in cancer cases are greater longevity in a population that is growing in number.We question this explanation.

Although we are living longer - and there is no doubt that most cancers, including breast cancer - are diseases of ageing - we do not believe this to be a sufficient explanation for the increasing trend in incidence of breast and other hormonally-related cancers. According to the Office of National Statistics, the average life expectancy of a woman living in the United Kingdom in 2010 was 82.4 years and in 2013 it rose to 82.8 years (2).

An increase in life span of less than 5 months. Yet the increase in age standardised incidence rose by 2.8%. It seems improbable that such a small increase in life expectancy could account for this increase in breast cancer incidence. Although increased lifespan is a contributing factor, the reason breast cancer rates continue to increase is due to a number of factors, which  along with lifestyle and genetics include environmental exposures to harmful chemicals.

Along with numerous expert scientists worldwide, we believe that there is overwhelming evidence that environmental chemicals play a significant causative role. We continue to call for more money to be invested in understanding the role of environmental pollutants in breast and other cancers. Unless we take action to reduce exposure to harmful chemicals we will continue to see cancer incidence increasing.

 

(1) Cancer Research UK (2016). Breast Cancer Statistics http://www.cancerresearchuk.org/health-professional/breast-cancer-statistics#heading-Two (last accessed February 18, 2016)

(2) Office for National Statistics. Past and projected data from the period and cohort life tables, 2014- based, UK, 1981 to 2064 (2015). http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/dcp171778_426798.pdf (accessed February 18, 2016)

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