UK among worst in the world for cancer survival rates for six of the deadliest types of disease

11 January 2024, 16:49

File image of a technician in laboratory research of cancer diseases
File image of a technician in laboratory research of cancer diseases. Picture: Alamy

By Christian Oliver

UK survival rates for six of the deadliest cancers are some of the worst in the world, horrifying data has shown.

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A group of cancer charities, operating under the Less Survivable Cancers Taskforce, has revealed the UK has among the lowest five-year survival rates for the most deadly cancers.

The terrifying data - based on research from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine - shows just 16 per cent of Britons diagnosed with the most lethal cancers live for at least five years.

The coalition identified the most fatal cancers as lung, liver, brain, oesophageal, pancreatic and stomach.

One reason for the poor survival rate is many patients only discover they have the disease once they're admitted to hospital or to an urgent GP appointment. At this point, it is often harder to treat and recover in the cancer's later stages.

Close up of cancer cells in the cervix
Close up of cancer cells in the cervix. Picture: Getty

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Using the data that tracked survival rates across 29 countries between 2010 and 2013, the taskforce found cancer patients in South Korea, Belgium, the US, Australia, and China were the most likely to live for five years after their diagnosis.

The UK has called far behind the leading countries. Some 8,000 lives could be saved each year if the UK had a similar survival level.

In terms of each type of disease, the UK ranked 27th for lung cancer,

For comparison, just 13.3 per cent of UK lung cancer patients live for five years after their diagnosis, while this figure stood at 25.1 per cent in leading country South Korea.

Specifically, the UK stood at 27th out of the 29 countries analysed for lung cancer, 26th for stomach cancer, 25th for pancreatic cancer, and 22nd for brain cancer.

Around 90,000 people are diagnosed with the five most deadly cancers in the UK each year - resulting in 67,000 deaths.

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The taskforce, made up of charities like Pancreatic Cancer UK and the Brain Tumour Charity, is aiming to increase the five-year survival rate to 28 per cent by 2029.

Anna Jewell, chair of the Less Survivable Cancers Taskforce, said: 'People diagnosed with a less survivable cancer are already fighting against the odds for survival. The figures we're sharing today show that people living in the UK have even worse prospects than those living in comparable countries.

"We can see from these statistics that if we could bring the survivability of these cancers on level with the best-performing countries in the world then we could give valuable years to thousands of patients.'

She also urged the UK government and devolved institutions to invest more in research and put processes in place to speed up diagnosis and treatment options.