Cancer deaths among young people halved since 70s

A new report reveals that the number of young people dying from cancer has dropped significantly since the 70s, thanks to new treatment approaches and medical research breakthroughs

Cancer deaths among young people in Britain have almost halved in the last 30 years.

The number of teenagers and young adults dying from cancer in Britain has fallen from around 580 per year in the mid-70s to around 300 today, according to Cancer Research UK. Cancer death rates among 15-24 year-olds fell from 74.5 to 37.7 per million in the same period.

A new report from Cancer Research UK and the University of Manchester reveals that around 2,100 teenagers and young adults are diagnosed with cancer in Britain each year, but experts believe that changes in the way some teenagers and young adults are treated has yielded a higher survival rate for some cancers, such as leukaemia.

Professor Jillian Birch, a Cancer Research UK teenage cancer expert and collaborator on the report, said: “We’ve made great progress in helping more teenagers and young adults survive cancer, and today over 80% will beat the disease.

“However, we need to get more young people on to clinical trials so we can develop better treatments, help more teenagers and young adults survive the disease, and offer hope to patients with harder-to-treat cancers.”

Meanwhile, scientists are working to pinpoint the role of genetics in causing cancers. In a study of the DNA of more than 100,000 people with cancer and 100,000 people without, researchers found alterations that were more common in people with prostate, breast or ovarian cancers.

Dr Harpal Kumar, Cancer Research UK’s chief executive, said: “This groundbreaking international work highlights how complex cancer is. But by understanding why some people seem to be at a greater risk of developing cancer, we can look towards an era where we can identify them and take steps to reduce their chances of getting cancer, or pick up the disease in its earliest stages.”