Cancer rate rising in middle-aged

Women having a mammogram
Image caption Improved screening has contributed to the rise in known cases

The risk of developing cancer in middle-age has risen by over 20% in a generation, figures from a cancer charity suggest.

The Cancer Research UK data show that in Britain in 1979, 44,000 people aged 40-59 developed the disease, compared with 61,000 in 2008.

CRUK said the rise for men and women was partly due to better screening, but also lifestyle factors like obesity.

However cancer survival rates have improved, doubling since the late 70s.

Last week, Macmillan Cancer Support warned overall cancer incidence had risen from a third to four in 10 people.

This latest analysis shows cases among the middle-aged increased from 329 per 100,000 to 388 per 100,000.

And among women in their 40s and 50s, cancer rates have risen by more than 25% - from 24,000 in 1979 to more than 36,500 in 2008.

Breast cancer rates increased by 50%.

In middle-aged men, prostate cancer rates rose six-fold over the same period.

Earlier diagnosis

The increasing number of people being diagnosed is, in part, due to the NHS breast screening programme and the PSA test for prostate cancer.

Lifestyle factors have also influenced cancer rates.

In women, use of the contraceptive Pill, drinking more alcohol, having children later and being overweight have increased breast cancer risk.

Skin cancers are also on the up in both men and women, due to people spending more time in the sun.

But improvements in screening does mean cancers can be detected earlier, and therefore treatment - which has also improved - is more likely to be successful.

Harpal Kumar, chief executive of Cancer Research UK's, said: "There has been undeniable progress in the treatment of cancer over the last 40 years and many more people are surviving the disease.

"But we must redouble our efforts to ensure that our research continues to discover new techniques to improve and refine diagnosis and treatment so that cancer survival becomes the norm for patients, irrespective of the cancer they have or their age at diagnosis."

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