Health

Sharp rise in skin and liver cancer across England

  • 19 June 2014
  • From the section Health
Doctor examining mole on patient
Skin cancer is now the fifth most common cancer in England, according to the Office for National Statistics

The numbers of people diagnosed with skin cancer and liver cancer have risen sharply in England.

Between 2003 and 2012, skin cancer cases increased by 78% in men and 48% in women, according to Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures, which are not adjusted for population growth.

Cases of liver cancer had risen by 70% in men and 60% in women, the ONS said.

Alcohol, obesity and hepatitis B and C are the main causes of liver cancer.

Overexposure to the sun is thought to be behind the skin cancer rise.

In 2012, breast cancer was the most common cancer in women, affecting 31% of those with a cancer diagnosis.

In men, prostate was the most commonly diagnosed cancer - at 26%.

Lung and bowel cancers were the second and third most prevalent cancers in men and women respectively.

'Treading a fine line'

Skin cancer is now the fifth most common cancer and accounts for 4% of new cases.

The number of newly diagnosed cases increased from 3,109 in men and 3,886 in women in 2003 to 5,535 in men and 5,746 in women in 2012.

Changes in clothing trends and an increase in sunbathing were behind the rise, said the ONS.

Liver cancer is now the 18th most common cancer in England and accounts for 1% of new cases.

The number of new cases increased from 1,440 in men and 889 in women in 2003 to 2,449 for men and 1,418 for women in 2012.

Andrew Langford, chief executive at the British Liver Trust, said the figures were "unfortunately, unsurprising".

More women than men have taken up smoking in the past 60 years, said the ONS, hence an increase in cancer

He said: "It is a very fine line people are treading at the moment. The three main causes of liver cancer are alcohol, obesity and viral hepatitis.

"Part of the problem is people often associate liver cancer with alcoholics. But we all know people who we would never describe as alcoholics but are heavy drinkers - and they are at risk."

'Killer habit'

He said that people who drank should have two to three days off a week to let their liver rejuvenate.

Lung cancer rates rose by 18% in women between 2003 and 2012, but fell by 8% in men.

Changing smoking patterns were behind the split, said the ONS, as there was a fall in the number of men who smoked in the past 50 to 60 years, but a rise in the number of women taking it up during the same time.

Matt Wickenden, at Cancer Research UK, said more than 40% of cancers could be prevented through lifestyle changes and that smoking caused "nearly a fifth of all cancers".

He added: "It is vital to reduce smoking rates, and so we're urging the government to introduce plain, standardised tobacco packaging without delay to stop the next generation taking up the deadly habit that kills half of all long-term users."

The rate of breast cancer diagnoses has remained fairly constant over the past decade. Age was the main risk factor for breast cancer, with 80% of women diagnosed in 2012 aged over 50, said the ONS.

Alcohol, obesity, lack of physical exercise, hormonal and reproductive factors were behind 27% of breast cancer cases, the research said.

Age was also the biggest risk factor for prostate cancer, said the study, with 89% of new cases in 2012 in men aged over 60.

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