Prostate overtakes breast as 'most common cancer'

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Bill TurnbullImage source, Prostate Cancer UK

Prostate cancer is now the most commonly diagnosed cancer in England, overtaking breast cancer for the first time, latest figures show.

In 2018 there were nearly 50,000 registered cases - around 8,000 more than in 2017.

Public Health England says it is because more men are getting tested.

And that is thanks to celebrities, like Stephen Fry and Bill Turnbull, raising awareness by speaking out about their own experiences.

'Fry and Turnbull effect'

In 2018, there were 316,680 cancers of any kind diagnosed, the equivalent of 868 cases a day.

Prostate was the most common type - 49,029 cases - followed by breast - 47,476 cases.

Lung and bowel cancers were the next most commonly diagnosed.

Former BBC Breakfast presenter Bill Turnbull went public with his prostate cancer diagnosis in March 2018, encouraging others to get tested, saying: "Maybe if I'd got it earlier and stopped it at the prostate, I'd be in a much better state."

He said his cancer had spread to his bones, including the pelvis and ribs.

TV comedian and presenter Stephen Fry revealed in February 2018 that he was recovering after having prostate cancer surgery, saying it was "thankfully caught in the nick of time".

According to the head of the NHS, the coverage of Fry and Turnbull's treatments led to an increase in men getting checked.

Cancer tsar Prof Peter Johnson said: "As people live longer, we're likely to see prostate cancer diagnosed more often, and with well-known figures like Rod Stewart, Stephen Fry and Bill Turnbull all talking openly about their diagnosis, more people will be aware of the risk."

He said more people coming forward for checks and care meant the disease increasingly is detected at an early stage, when treatment is most successful and survival chances are highest.

Lucy Elliss-Brookes, Head of Cancer Analysis at Public Health England, said: "Although we are seeing a continued rise in cancer diagnoses, it's encouraging that we are also seeing increases in survival, as well as an overall decrease in emergency diagnoses of cancer."

Lynda Thomas, Chief Executive of Macmillan Cancer Support, said it was good news that more people are seeing their doctor to check for cancer.

But she said the increasing numbers came at a time when the NHS and social care services were under pressure, with long waiting times for cancer diagnosis and treatment.

What is prostate cancer?

  • It is the most common cancer in men in the UK - an ageing population means more men are developing and dying from the disease
  • It involves the prostate - a small gland in the pelvis in men
  • Cancers can develop slowly over years and many men have no symptoms
  • Noticeable symptoms include needing to urinate more often and weak flow
  • There is no single test for prostate cancer - a blood test, biopsies and physical examinations are all used
Media caption,

We explain what warning signs to look out for

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