Scots cases of cancer rise by a sixth in a decade

Scottish health minister Shona Robison believes the numbers are in line with the rest of the UK. Picture: Jane Barlow
Scottish health minister Shona Robison believes the numbers are in line with the rest of the UK. Picture: Jane Barlow
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CASES of cancer in Scotland have risen by 14 per cent in the past decade as the country’s ageing population soars, new Scottish health statistics reveal.

Figures published by NHS Scotland’s information services division yesterday reveal that 31,013 people were diagnosed with the disease in 2013, compared to 27,095 in 2003.

Cancer is no longer the death sentence it used to be

Gregor McNie

There was a spike in skin cancer, with malignant melanoma increasing by nearly a third since 2003, prompting a warning from Scotland’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr Catherine Calderwood, to avoid sunbeds and take serious care in the sun.

While lung cancer is still the most common form of cancer at 17 per cent, the long-term decline among men has continued with a 15 per cent decrease in cases in the past decade.

But levels have risen by 15 per cent among women since 2003.

There has also been a spike in cases of womb cancer, which shot up by 33 per cent, and kidney cancer, up 25 per cent and 35 per cent for men and women, respectively.

Breast cancer diagnosis has increased by 9 per cent, although the report suggested that this rise may be due to the Scottish Breast Screening programme which is catching more cases.

Statisticians suggested it could also be linked to a greater prevalence of risk factors, such as increases in the mother’s age before she has her first child, and an increase in alcohol consumption.

Ovarian cancer incidence fell by 14 per cent, believed to be to do with an increased use of oral contraception which provides some protection against ovarian cancer.

There was a significant decrease in stomach cancer, falling by 30 per cent in men and 25 per cent in women.

Despite the increase in cases, survival rates are improving as an estimated 176,000 people in Scotland who have been diagnosed with cancer during the past 20 years are still alive.

Campaigners welcomed the news that more people were surviving the disease but called for a greater focus on care to help those living with the disease.

Janice Preston, general manager of Macmillan in Scotland, said: “More people are being diagnosed with cancer than ever before, but more people are also surviving the disease.

“Research shows cancer patients are often left with long-term physical, emotional and financial problems as a result of cancer or its treatments.

“It’s vitally important we get much better at making sure people get the right support to cope with the many problems the illness can bring.”

Gregor McNie of Cancer Research UK in Scotland said: “These statistics reinforce the vital need for more research to better prevent, treat and cure all types of cancer.

“But there is good news. Cancer is no longer the death sentence it used to be. Cancer survival has doubled since the 1970s and Cancer Research UK’s work has been at the heart of that progress.”

The trends revealed by this report are broadly in line with the rest of the UK, said Shona Robison, cabinet secretary for health and wellbeing.

She said: “As elsewhere in the UK, incidence of cancer is increasing in Scotland due to our ageing population while more and more people are surviving for longer with a cancer diagnosis.

“We are improving our ability to detect cancer and to treat it successfully but we can always do more.”

It is estimated that two in five people in Scotland will be diagnosed with some form of cancer during their lifetime.