The number of people in their 50s dying prematurely from cancer in the UK has fallen below 14,000 for the first time in 40 years according to new Cancer Research UK figures published today.
The latest statistics show that cancer deaths in 50-59 year olds have dropped from over 21,300 in 1971 to under 14,000 in 2010 - which equates to a drop in rates of 40 per cent.
The rates of people in their 50s dying from cancer have dropped from around 310 deaths in every 100,000 in 1971 to around 185 in every 100,000 in 2010.
The proportion of people in their 50s who die from stomach cancer and Hodgkin's lymphoma has fallen by over three-quarters with around 25 in every 100,000 people dying from stomach cancer in 1971 dropping to 4.2 in 2010 and more than 2 in every 100,000 people dying from Hodgkin's lymphoma in 1971 compared to 0.5 per 100, 000 in 2010.
For men, the cancers which have seen the biggest fall in deaths rates are stomach, Hodgkin's lymphoma, testicular and lung. And, for women, death rates have fallen the most for cervical, stomach, Hodgkin's lymphoma and bowel cancers.
The dramatic drop in 50-59 year olds dying from cancer is likely to be due to a combination of factors. For example, better chemotherapy has led to improved survival in testicular cancer and Hodgkin's lymphoma. And other factors include falling smoking rates, the introduction of screening, better treatments such as tamoxifen, more effective radiotherapy and many new drugs and better delivery of cancer diagnosis and treatment by the NHS.