Here is a guest post written by the lovely people at Cancer Research UK. As you know, it is a charity close to my heart…
Cancer is not a nice word to hear, anymore now than it was fifty years ago. However, does it mean the same as it did in the past? Is cancer the death sentence people assumed it was in the mid 19th century and are we any nearer beating the disease than ever before?
The good news is that cancer survival rates are higher than ever before. This is mainly due to early detection by means of technology advances and more intensive successful treatment. However, the bad news is that cancer diagnosis rates are also rising but increasing population rates are primarily responsible for this, so it could be argued that it is to be expected. However, there are also modern day threats such as chemicals, bad diets and sunbeds which are rumoured to have a carcinogenic effect on our bodies.
One of the most publicised and well known causes of cancer is smoking. However, cigarette use is falling out of favour now and in the last ten years has dropped dramatically in people aged 17 to 25. Lung cancer diagnosis rates have also dropped significantly and treatment success rates have increased significantly which is a very positive step towards the nation’s health.
Breast cancer diagnosis and mortality rates have also both decreased from 2000 to the present day with a very significant drop from 1950 to now. This change has been credited to improved technology, diagnosing women before the stage where their cancer is incurable. Mammograms can detect cancer well before it becomes life threatening and publicity regarding self-checking has been responsible for more women discovering lumps in time for successful treatment.
However, among all the positive statistics there is some bad news. Incidents of skin cancer have risen steadily and non-melanoma cancer rates have increased significantly. Since the early 1970s, the more serious skin cancer, malignant melanoma incidences have increased significantly and studies have shown an average four per cent every year in the United States.
In terms of survival cancer rates over the last fifty years, it seems it all depends on the type of cancer. It appears that it is a lottery when it comes to cancer and some such as breast and lung are showing much improvement but others such as brain and pancreatic cancers have shown hardly any survival rate improvements at all. Colon cancer survival statistics have improved by nearly twenty fold since fifty years ago and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma ten fold.
There is a huge amount of variation in survival rates for different types of cancer showing that much more research is needed for certain cancers over others. Having said that, the statistics may also reflect how successful research is into certain cancers as their detection rates and awareness have improved, in turn saving lives.
Cancer in its entirety is much better understood now than as little as fifteen years ago and research into how the disease mutates and progresses has helped tailor treatment and prevention so that mortality rates have significantly lowered in many strains of the disease. However, lifestyle trends need to be considered since lack of exercise and fast food diets have become a possible factor in cancer diagnoses now.
Anyone who faces cancer has a much brighter future now than those in the past and most can look forward to enjoying their life after treatment rather than putting their affairs in order. Hopefully, these statistics will improve over the next few years so we can eventually show cancer the door.