A new forecast from Cancer Research UK predicts that half of British people born after 1960 will develop cancer at some point in their lives. The figure highlights the increasing and urgent need to improve public health and NHS services so they can cope with a growing demand for care from an aging population.
The new prediction is primarily attributable to our increasing lifespans. Age is the biggest risk factor for the majority of cancers and for this reason surviving into old age puts us at a higher risk of developing the disease.
Study author Professor Peter Sasieni said: “Cancer is primarily a disease of old age, with more than 60 per cent of all cases diagnosed in people aged over 65. If people live longer then most will get cancer at some point.”
Chief executive Harpal Kumar believes that people need to plan ahead to ensure the NHS is fit to cope. “If the NHS doesn’t act and invest now, we will face a crisis in the future – with outcomes from cancer going backwards.”
Sasieni claims that maintaining a healthy lifestyle can lower the lifetime risk of cancer from 50 per cent to 30 per cent.
According to Cancer Research UK, more than 4 out of every 10 cancer cases could be prevented by lifestyle changes.
“There’s a lot we can do to make it less likely – like giving up smoking, being more active, drinking less alcohol and maintaining a healthy weight,” he said.