- Researchers in London found that around 460 lives are lost to cancer every day.
- But experts say cancer death rates have dropped 15 percent since the 1980s.
More than two million years of life are lost every year to cancer in the UK, according to new research.
In the first analysis of its kind, experts have calculated the number of years lives were shortened in the UK as a result of the disease.
A team from Cancer Research UK, King’s College London and Queen Mary University of London used average life expectancy and cancer death data to calculate time lost.
Using the age at which people die, they estimate that the number of cancer deaths each year in the UK is shortening lives by 2,308,277 years.
Dr Judith Offman, who led the work at King’s College London, said: “This analysis allows us to see the impact cancer has on patients and their families, and the precious time that is lost as a result.” .
While the growing population has seen the total number of years of life lost per year due to all cancers combined increase since the 1980s, rates have decreased by 15 percent over the three decades.
Around 167,000 lives are lost to cancer each year – around 460 people every day.
High diagnoses and low survival rates mean that around a fifth of total years lost are due to lung cancer, with more than 500,000 per year.
Patients typically die 14 years earlier from lung, liver, pancreas, and stomach cancer, 17 years earlier from breast and ovarian cancer, 25 years from cervical cancer, and 33 years from testicular cancer.
They predict that each year around 213,000 years of life are lost to bowel cancer and around 197,000 to breast cancer.
But while the growing population has seen the total number of years of life lost per year due to all cancers combined rise since the 1980s, rates have fallen by 15 percent over the three decades.
Rates of stomach cancer have been reduced by 59 percent, cervical cancer rates by 58 percent, and breast cancer rates have been reduced by 39 percent thanks to advances in diagnosis and treatment.
The total number of years of life lost to cervical cancer in 1988 was around 43,600, but the cervical screening program has seen this figure fall to around 21,800 in 2017.
The analysis shows that liver, melanoma and kidney cancers have seen increases in rates of years of life lost, largely due to rising numbers of cases, but other cancer types have seen rates decline.
Rising obesity and alcohol consumption are blamed for the increase in years lost to liver cancer, with rates rising 157 percent in 30 years.
Meanwhile, testicular cancer has fewer years lost overall because survival rates are good. But for those who don’t make it, the average number of years lost is high, 33, because they die young.
Michelle Mitchell, chief executive of Cancer Research UK, said the fight was far from over.
Praising the government’s announcement last week about raising the sales age for tobacco products as “a welcome step”, he said: “This new analysis is a stark reminder of the impact cancer has on lives today. of so many people in the UK.
“Behind the statistics are people affected by cancer, and these lost years of life are lost opportunities to achieve goals and spend precious time with loved ones.”