17 August 2012
The number of older people (aged 65 and over) living with cancer in the UK is set to more than treble by 2040 – from 1.3 million in 2010 to 4.1 million – warns Macmillan Cancer Support.
According to new Macmillan-funded research by King’s College London, recently published on the British Journal of Cancer’s website, nearly one in four (23 per cent) older people will have had a cancer diagnosis in 2040 – almost double the proportion in 2010 (13 per cent). This is nearly four times the proportion for people aged 45-64.
Lung cancer prevalence in older women will see the biggest increase. The prevalence of lung cancer in older women will more than double from in 2010 to 2040 (from 319 to 831 per 100, 000), whereas lung cancer prevalence in older men is expected to decrease. This is due to a dramatic decline in smoking among men in England since the 1970s.
The sharp rise cancer prevalence is likely to be due to a number of reasons including the ageing population, increasing incidence and increasing cancer survival.
Professor Henrik Møller, one of the study authors at King’s College London, says:
“The aim of this research is to provide long term projections of cancer prevalence in the UK. The research shows that large increases can be expected in the oldest age groups in the coming decades and with this an increased demand upon health services.”
Currently older cancer patients face a multitude of barriers to getting the best care and treatment. These include under treatment, a lack of practical support at home preventing them from going to hospital to get treatment and poor management of non-cancer related health problems.
Ciarán Devane, Chief Executive at Macmillan Cancer Support, said:
“The care of older cancer patients is the ticking time bomb for society. These stark predictions should act as a warning to the NHS and social care providers of the problems ahead if older cancer patients are not offered the best treatment and support.
“We have a moral duty to give people the best chance of beating cancer, regardless of their age. For cancer survival to improve, older people must be given the right treatment at the correct level of intensity, together with the practical support to enable them to take it up.
“The barriers to older people getting treatment must be tackled. If we don’t get this right now many older people will be dying unnecessarily from cancer in the future.”
Macmillan is calling for a more effective way of assessing older people for treatment, more short-term practical support to enable them to take up recommended treatment and training for professionals working with older people within the NHS to promote age equality.
Macmillan, in partnership with Age UK and the Department of Health, has set up five pilots to test new models of older people’s care. They will report in December 2012.
To help more older people living with cancer, Macmillan relies on public donations. For cancer support, or to find out ways you can give, call Macmillan’s Support Line free on 0808 808 00 00 or visit www.macmillan.org.uk
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Notes to Editors:
This new study published in the British Journal of Cancer makes, for the first time ever, long-term projections of the number of people living with a cancer diagnosis in the UK – cancer prevalence. Researchers, from Thames Cancer Registry in King’s College London and University College London, used cancer registry data to estimate cancer prevalence in 2009 and developed a model to predict prevalence based on projected cancer incidence, survival and population demographics. A number of possible scenarios were considered and are presented in full in the British Journal of Cancer. Scenario one, which assumes existing trends in incidence and survival will continue (except for prostate cancer), is presented here and is considered the most empirically based scenario. A summary of the research can be found here.
 Maddams J, Utley M and Møller H. 2012. Projections of cancer prevalence in the United Kingdom, 2010–2040. British Journal of Cancer advance online publication 14 August 2012; doi: 10.1038/bjc.2012.366 http://www.nature.com/bjc/journal/vaop/ncurrent/abs/bjc2012366a.html. Projections scenario 1 presented here.
 Davy M (2006). ‘Time and generational trends in smoking among men and women in Great Britain, 1972–2004/05’. Office for National Statistics Health Statistics Quarterly; 32: 35–43.
For more information on the issues older people experience during treatment, please see Macmillan Cancer Support’s recent report, The Age Old Excuse: the under treatment of older cancer patients.
For more facts and figures read, The rich picture on older people with cancer.
About Macmillan Cancer Support
Cancer is the toughest fight most of us will ever face. But you don’t have to go through it alone. The Macmillan team is with you every step of the way.
We are the nurses and therapists helping you through treatment. The experts on the end of the phone. The advisers telling you which benefits you’re entitled to. The volunteers giving you a hand with the everyday things. The campaigners improving cancer care. The fundraisers who make it all possible. We are Macmillan Cancer Support