Lung cancer 'still biggest cancer killer' in Wales, figures show

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Media captionCancer survival is less likely in deprived areas, figures show

Lung cancer continues to kill more people in Wales than any other type of cancer with almost 1,900 dying of the disease in 2012, new figures show.

The disease accounts for more than a fifth of cancer deaths, said Public Health Wales (PHW).

And Wales' survival rates for many smoking-related cancers remained low compared to the best in Europe.

Survival rates for cancer overall are improving but survival is less likely in deprived areas.

The figures, from PHW's Welsh Cancer Intelligence and Surveillance Unit (WCISU), showed that although lung cancer was traditionally a disease seen in men, the number of women dying of the illness had risen by a third over the past 10 years.

And for the first time, bowel cancer was the most common cancer in Wales.

The figures showed the number of cancer cases was on the rise, with over 18,000 people diagnosed in 2012 - two-thirds of them aged 65 or over.

WCISU director Dr Dyfed Wyn Huws said: "The cancers we are seeing... suggest that smoking, moderate and excessive alcohol drinking, not exercising enough, obesity and a poor diet without enough daily fruit and vegetables, throughout our lives, are contributing to the levels in Wales."

He said smoking was by far the main risk for lung cancer but air pollution, such as that from traffic, also played a part.

Dr Huws added: "Restrictions on sales and advertising, along with increased tax and duty, are all effective in reducing alcohol consumption and smoking, especially in young people.

"Minimum alcohol pricing and plain cigarette packs also help."

The UK government has said it is moving forward with plans to ban branding on cigarette packs.

Macmillan Cancer Support in Wales said it was concerning that there had been no improvement in the percentage of people dying from lung cancer from the figures published previously.

Survival rates

"An earlier study showed that Wales was 28th out of 29 European countries in terms of five-year survival rates for lung cancer, which shows that Wales has some way to go to achieve the ambition to be the best in Europe outlined in the government's cancer delivery plan," said Susan Morris, the charity's general manager in Wales.

When comparing cancer rates with levels of deprivation, the report found cancer became more common - and survival rates worsened - the more deprived the area.

The most notable exception to this trend was breast cancer, which is more common among more affluent women.

The report said an ageing population - and socioeconomic inequalities and deprivation - were increasing ill-health and death from cancer in Wales.

The cancer figures come as a biotech firm says it is investing £34m in anti-cancer drugs developed at Cardiff University.

Edinburgh-based biopharmaceutical company, NuCana, said it was backing four anti-cancer medicines developed at the School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences.

Its lead product, Acelarin, is aimed at patients with pancreatic, biliary (bile duct), lung and ovarian cancers.

Prof Chris McGuigan, whose team developed the technology behind the drugs, said: "It is very exciting to watch a new medicine emerge, from a theoretical idea, through chemical synthesis in our laboratory here in Cardiff, and now as a new treatment for patients with cancer."

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