The number of people in the UK who will be diagnosed with cancer will increase by a third by 2040, according to new figures.
This will take the number of new cases every year to more than half a million, rising from 384,000 per year now to 506,000 in 2040.
“Today’s analysis provides a stark reminder of the challenges the NHS in England is set to face in years to come,” Cancer Research UK’s chief executive Michelle Mitchell said.
“Cancer patients are already facing unacceptably long waits for diagnosis and treatment, and staff in cancer services are working very hard,” Mitchell adds.
“NHS risks being overwhelmed by the sheer volume of new cancer diagnoses” unless the government takes action,” Professor Charles Swanton, the charity’s chief clinician said.
A middle aged woman sits in a high-back chair as she sips a cup of tea. She is dressed casually and has a headscarf on to keep her warm between cancer treatments.
Before the pandemic, progress was “too slow” in diagnosing people with cancers early - when they were easier to treat, the report found.
It adds that “a lot of uncertainty” remains about the full impact of the pandemic on early diagnosis.
The increases in cases are mainly linked to an ageing population, however, obesity and smoking are also contributing to the cases, the charity added.
Nearly four in 10 cancer cases are preventable, with overweight or obesity causing around 23,000 cases of cancer every year in the UK while smoking causes around 55,000 cases every year.
“We are laser-focused on fighting cancer on all fronts – prevention, diagnosis, treatment, research and funding – so we can deliver the best possible outcomes for patients,” a Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said.
“More patients are being diagnosed and starting treatment earlier with 92 community diagnostic centres open since 2021 delivering over 2.8 million tests, scans and checks including to detect cancer. We also recently announced a £10 million investment in more breast cancer screening units as well as software and service upgrades,” they added.
Cancer Research UK figures indicate that there will be 208,000 overall cancer deaths in the UK each year by 2040 which will be an increase of almost a quarter from the 167,000 seen now.
There could be 8.4 million new cases of cancer and 3.5 million cancer deaths in the UK between 2023 and 2040.