New official statistics from Public Health Wales show that there has been a 10 per cent increase in new cancer cases in Wales between 2006 and 2015.
There were 19,088 new cases of cancer in 2015 compared to 17,389 in 2006. The increase in cancer cases is part of a long term trend in Wales.
The main reason is the increase in older working-aged people in the population, the result of people living longer and the changing trends of cancer risk factors in our society.
Although getting older is the main risk factor for most types of cancer, the highest number of new cases is now in 65-69 year-olds, which is ten years younger than in 2006. One in three new cases of cancer now occurs in people under 65 years old.
The figures, published by the Welsh Cancer Intelligence and Surveillance Unit (WCISU), show that once the ageing of the population is taken into account, the trend in the cancer rate per 100,000 people decreased by over five per cent in men, but showed an increase of over five per cent in women from 2006 to 2015.
Compared to other UK countries, the cancer rate for men in Wales is consistently the highest, but the long-term trend is decreasing. The long-term trend is increasing at different rates for women in all the UK countries. For women living in Wales, the rate has remained the second highest.
Dr Dyfed Wyn Huws, Director of the Welsh Cancer Intelligence and Surveillance Unit at Public Health Wales, said: “Our new statistics provide the most up-to-date, reliable and complete picture of cancer incidence in Wales.”
“Breast, prostate, lung and bowel cancers remain the commonest cancers in Wales in 2015.
“The largest percentage increases were seen for liver cancer, melanoma skin cancer, and mouth and throat cancer between 2006 and 2015. There were also increases in the rates of kidney cancer, breast cancer, and cancer of the womb.
“Mesothelioma rates – a cancer related to asbestos and that takes a long time to develop after exposure – increased by almost a third during the same time period.
”The rates of stomach cancer and prostate cancer decreased. Although the lung cancer rate went down overall and in men, amongst women it increased by 14 per cent over the ten year period.”
Dr Huws added: “We know that up to 4 in 10 of cancer in the population may be preventable. With an increasing number of cancer cases each year, cancer control is possible and important for future generations and for keeping rising health service demand in check.”
The statistics showed that cancer rates vary considerably across areas of Wales, but the widest differences are for lung cancer. Previous analysis by the Welsh Cancer
Intelligence and Surveillance Unit has shown how the rates also vary according to the social disadvantage within areas.
Known preventable risk factors of cancer include: tobacco use, alcohol consumption, obesity, lack of dietary fibre and fruit and vegetables, exposure to UV radiation from the sun and sunbeds (long term exposure and sunburn), lack of exercise, infections such as the human papilloma virus (HPV), and certain occupational risks such as exposure to asbestos.
Dr Huws continued: “The good news is that we have seen significant reductions in smoking rates in recent decades. This is already bringing cancer rates down in men.
Further reductions in smoking amongst men and women will help prevent more cancer in future. We can still do more, particularly in the areas such as obesity where rates are still rising.”
Public Health Wales is undertaking a wide range of activity to address these preventable cancers such as:
- Our JUSTB/Byw Bywyd programme which works with young people in areas where smoking is still quite high to help stop young people becoming smokers in the first place
- Working with health boards and community pharmacists to ensure that NHS help to quit smoking is readily available across Wales and helping smokers to get the best help for them
- Working with employers through our Healthy Working Wales programme to support them in taking action to promote health and safety at work
- Working with health boards to take advantage of the thousands of day-to-day contacts between NHS staff and the public; Making Every Contact Count as an opportunity to help people make healthier choices
- Our HPV vaccination programme helps prevent cervical cancer and some types of mouth and throat cancers, as well as some other rarer form of cancer
- Our cervical cancer screening programme is also aimed at prevention, and our bowel cancer screening programme can prevent some cases of bowel cancer as well as help detect it early
Public Health Wales produces reports and information to influence national and international policy to ensure it is based on the best evidence to protect and improve health.
More information about the Welsh Cancer Intelligence and Surveillance Unit (WCISU) and a link to the statistics is available online at http://www.wcisu.wales.nhs.uk/