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Slowest Progress in Cancer Survival in the UK in the past 50 years: Study

Experts attribute the deceleration in improving prognosis to austerity measures since 2010.

A recent report reveals that progress in cancer survival in the UK has reached its slowest rate in 50 years, with experts attributing this deceleration to the impact of austerity on the nation’s health. The study, conducted by researchers at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and commissioned by Cancer Research UK, predicts that there will be half a million new cancer cases annually in the UK by 2040. The report notes that nearly half of all patients (49.8%) now survive cancer for at least 10 years. However, the rate of progress in improving prognosis slowed significantly after 2010, increasing by an average of 0.6% per year between 2011 and 2018, compared to the previous decades’ range of 1.5%-2.7% per year for 10-year survival.

Data from the International Agency for Research on Cancer, WHO’s cancer arm, indicates that global cancer cases are projected to surge by over 75% by 2050, driven by factors such as tobacco use, alcohol consumption, and obesity. Mark Lawler, a professor of digital health at Queen’s University Belfast and the chair of Lancet Oncology’s European Groundshot cancer commission, expressed concern over the slow progress in 10-year cancer survival outlined in Cancer Research UK’s study. He emphasized that the combination of good health and austerity hampers cancer prevention and treatment efforts, with fewer resources allocated to these areas. Lawler added that the impact of COVID-19 and national lockdowns has further setback survival for certain cancers, such as bowel cancer, by almost a decade.

“Surprisingly, at a time when the government has shifted from a national cancer strategy to a major conditions strategy, it goes against international best practices,” remarked John Ashton, a former president of the UK Faculty of Public Health. He highlighted the challenges faced in cancer prevention due to constraints on public health budgets.

“The agenda for preventing cancer involves smoking cessation, maintaining a healthy weight, reducing alcohol consumption, and adopting a healthy diet. Public health teams lack the resources to effectively address the preventive aspects of cancer. Combined with pressures on GP practices and the broader NHS, the outlook appears bleak from a prevention, early intervention, and treatment perspective,” Ashton added.

Jon Shelton, the leader of cancer intelligence at Cancer Research UK, expressed concern, stating, “The progress in cancer survival is not occurring at a satisfactory pace. There are prolonged delays in both diagnosis and the initiation of treatment, consistently missing cancer waiting time targets. Additionally, there is a crucial need for enhanced efforts in cancer prevention.”



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