Cancer is a major cause of ill health and death. It is estimated that more than one in three people will develop cancer at some point in their lifetime, and one in four will die from it. The incidence of cancer generally increases with age. Increases in the number of cases are predicted despite the relatively stable rates in recent years, mainly due to the ageing population.
5% of the NHS budget is spent on cancer care, with some estimates suggesting that the overall cost could increase by more than a third in the next decade.
There are many different types of cancer, and many different sites of the body where they can occur. Skin cancers are very common but cancer incidence statistics usually exclude ‘non-melanoma skin cancers’, which comprise the majority of these. (There are several reasons for this. One reason is that, because these are often simply excised on an outpatient basis, there may be under-ascertainment of cases. Another reason is that spread beyond the original tumour site is unusual, and they are usually cured by excision). Cancer can occur at any age, but it is predominantly a disease of older adults, with only a very small proportion of cases occurring in children.
What are the big issues?
In is expected that, mainly due to the ageing population, the number of cases of cancer will increase in men of all ages by 70% and in women by 35% in the next two decades.
Overall, there are approximately 2,500 cases of cancer diagnosed in Warwickshire each year, and about 1,400 deaths (representing about 27% of all mortalities).
Although the age-standardised rates of cancer incidence (occurrence) have remained reasonably constant over recent years, the actual number of cases diagnosed has tended to increase. (This is because the incidence of cancer increases with age, so we would expect to see a rising number of cancer cases as the number of older people in the population increases, despite no increase in age-standardised rates). Similarly, although age-standardised rates of mortality from cancer have fallen over recent years, both nationally and locally (indicating improved survival), the actual number of deaths from cancer has not decreased.
Mortality rates from breast, prostate, colorectal and lung cancers are generally similar in Warwickshire to the national rates. However, significant differences from national rates are noted as follows:
- Warwickshire as a whole has a significantly lower mortality rate from lung cancer in both men and women than the national rates.
- Stratford-on-Avon and Warwick districts have a significantly lower mortality from lung cancer in both men and women than the national rate.
- Nuneaton & Bedworth has a significantly higher mortality rate from lung cancer in men than nationally
What do people say?
It is widely suggested that up to half of all cancer cases may be preventable by changes in lifestyle behaviours such as not smoking, eating a healthy diet, having a healthy body weight, reducing alcohol intake and keeping physically active.