Cancer rates for the 40-59 age group rise steeply


Posted on: 19 July 2011 by Alexander Hay

A worrying trend becomes clear

A story you may have overlooked from yesterday's Guardian:

Cancer diagnoses in middle-aged men and women have soared by nearly 20% in a generation as screening picks up more cases and smoking, drinking, obesity and unfitness continue to take a toll. In 1979, the incidence was 328 cases per 100,000 among people aged 40-59, while by 2008 the rate was 388 per 100,000.

In absolute numbers, an extra 17,000 cancer cases are being diagnosed every year among this age group, according to Cancer Research UK (Cruk), Britain's biggest cancer charity. In 1979, there were 44,000 diagnoses in the age group but that had risen by 38% to nearly 61,000 by 2008, according to the latest figures.

Women have experienced a bigger rise in cancer rates than men, with diagnoses among the age group rising by 26%, based on an incidence of 363 per 100,000 in 1979 rising to 459 per 100,000 in 2008. In absolute numbers the rise was more than 50%, with 24,000 cases in 1979 but more than 36,500 in 2008. The increase in male cancers was from almost 20,000 to 24,000.

The two major reasons for the rise are screening and lifestyle. More cancers that would not have been spotted in middle age in the past are now being detected and treated.

In part, this rise can indeed be explained as the result of more screening, but the notion that we're getting unhealthier is troubling, not least since our life expectancies and recovery rates from serious illnesses such as Cancer continue to rise. It reads more like an attempt to keep on intruding on our personal lives.

It seems more likely that what once killed people in their 40s and 50s is growing ever less likely to do so, meaning that the numbers of those with health problems are rising simply because they are living longer.


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Alexander Hay

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Rhian Mainwaring posted 20 July 2011

Statistics are becoming increasingly difficult to understand and I'm sick of the fearmongering, I think you're right Alex, while more cancers are being discovered, more people are also surviving the illness - it's not win win, but it's certainly not lose lose!

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