One in two UK people will develop cancer, researchers predict

Half of all people in the UK will go on to develop cancer at some point in their lives, research has found, and more NHS funds will be needed to cope with the healthcare burden.

Breast cancer screening: half of people will develop cancer (Photo: Dave Perris/Lucky Dog Photography)
Breast cancer screening: half of people will develop cancer (Photo: Dave Perris/Lucky Dog Photography)

A study found that 50% of all men born since 1960 will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime, as will a slightly smaller percentage of women.

In comparison, people born in the 1930s had a one-in-three chance of getting cancer.

The analysis found that living longer, increased consumption of red meat and higher rates of obesity means that more people are at risk of the disease. Having fewer children later in life also puts women at greater risk.

Better diagnosis also means that cancers are picked up in more patients.

NHS funds needed

The authors of the Cancer Research UK study hope their work will boost public health messages and encourage investment into NHS cancer services.

‘It may also assist clinicians and patients to weigh the lifetime risk of developing cancer versus other challenging health risks,’ they wrote.

The study comes weeks after NHS England outlined plans to improve early diagnosis rates.

Harpal Kumar, Cancer Research UK’s chief executive, said: ‘We need to ensure the health service is adequately funded if we’re to deal effectively with the growing burden of cancer and offer all patients the best chance of long term survival.’

GPC deputy chairman Dr Richard Vautrey told GP: ‘Not only will growing numbers of people both develop cancer and subsequently live with cancer, many more will also spend many years living with other serious and once life threatening conditions such as heart disease and diabetes.

‘All of this means that politicians need to up their game from the current election rhetoric when it comes to talking about funding health and social care in the future.'

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