The four most common cancers - breast, lung, colorectal and prostate - accounted for over half of the 225,000 new cases of malignant cancer (excluding non-melanoma skin cancer) registered in England in 2001.
Around 113,000 of the total were in males and 112,000 in females. Breast cancer accounted for 31 per cent of cases among women and prostate cancer for 23 per cent among men.
Cancer is predominantly a disease of the elderly - only 0.5 per cent of cases registered in 2001 were in children (aged under 15) and 25 per cent were in people aged under 60.
Between 1971 and 2001, the age-standardised incidence of cancer increased by around 20 per cent in males and 39 per cent in females.
One in four people die from cancer.
The four most common cancers accounted for just under half of the 128,000 deaths from cancer (excluding non-melanoma skin cancer) in England in 2002. Around 66,000 of the total were in males and 61,000 in females. Cancer accounted for 28 per cent of all deaths in males and 23 per cent in females.
Between 1950 and 2002, age-standardised cancer mortality in England and Wales changed very little. However, mortality from the other main causes - heart disease, stroke and infectious diseases - declined. Consequently, cancer became the most common cause of death in females from 1969 and in males from 1995.
Survival varies by type of cancer and, for each, by a number of factors including sex, age and socio-economic status.
Five year relative survival is poor for cancers of the lung, oesophagus, pancreas and stomach, in the range 6-15 per cent for patients diagnosed in 1996-99, compared with colon cancer (around 47 per cent), cancers of the bladder, cervix and prostate (56-65 per cent) and breast cancer (78 per cent).
For the majority of cancers, a higher proportion of women than men survived for at least five years after diagnosis. Among adults, the younger the age at diagnosis, the higher the survival for almost every cancer. Survival improved for most cancers in both sexes during the 1990s.
National Statistics website: www.statistics.gov.uk
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