Prostate cancer overtakes breast as most common cancer in England

27 January 2020, 22:33

Prostate cancer is now more commonly diagnosed than breast cancer
Prostate cancer is now more commonly diagnosed than breast cancer. Picture: PA
Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

Prostate cancer has overtaken breast in becoming the most commonly diagnosed cancer in England.

Public Health England put the increase down to the "Fry and Turnbull effect" - Stephen Fry and Bill Turnbull - who both went public with their illnesses two years ago.

There were 49,029 recorded diagnoses in 2018, almost 8,000 more than the previous year, according to provisional PHE figures.

It means prostate cancer has now become more widely diagnosed than breast cancer - a decade earlier than experts predicted.

Men also recorded 165,228 diagnoses in 2018, almost 14,000 more than women.

This means that an average of 868 cases were recorded each day, with just over half being breast, bowel, lung or prostate cancer.

The full cancer incidence data will be released in the spring.

It comes as record numbers of men in the UK are dying from prostate cancer, which officials say is down to an ageing population.

Public Health England said the increase was partly down to Turnbull (L) and Fry (R)
Public Health England said the increase was partly down to Turnbull (L) and Fry (R). Picture: PA

Heather Blake, 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."

Record numbers of men are dying from prostate cancer
Record numbers of men are dying from prostate cancer. Picture: PA

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."

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