Charity urges action as cancer rates rise over the last decade

The number of people diagnosed with cancer in Scotland has increased over the last ten years by around 12 per cent, according to NHS figures.
Cancer rates increase in 10-year period.Cancer rates increase in 10-year period.
Cancer rates increase in 10-year period.

Campaigners at Cancer Research UK are urging the Scottish Government to develop a new obesity strategy to curb the “barrage” of supermarket deals on junk food, with rising levels of obesity being linked to cancer.

Overall, 31,467 people were diagnosed with some form of the disease in 2015 compared with 27,494 people ten years previously. Lung cancer remains the most common form in Scotland, with 4,997 people diagnosed with the disease in 2015. While cases in men fell 15.5 per cent over a decade, there has been a 6.8 per cent rise in lung cancer in women over the period.

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This reflects different patterns in smoking behaviour, with men’s smoking peaking in the 1940s while women’s peaked around the 1970s. Because it takes many years of damage from tobacco smoke for lung cancer to develop, the effects of changing smoking rates on cancer rates take decades to emerge.

The figures also showed a 21.5 per cent rise in cases of skin cancer over the last decade, with the number of men developing the disease up by a third (33.1 per cent) against a 9.9 per cent rise for women.

Cases of cancer of the uterus, including endometrial cancer, were 32.1 per cent higher in 2015 than a decade ago, with this possibly linked to women having fewer babies – childbearing is thought to protect against endometrial cancer.

Kidney cancer diagnoses were up 25 per cent over the decade up to 2015 and while the reason for this was unclear, obesity and smoking are both risk factors. Being overweight later in life and drinking too much are also risk factors for breast cancer, which remains the most common cancer in women, with 4,738 diagnoses in 2015 – an increase of 5.7 per cent over the past ten years.

Gregor McNie, Cancer Research UK’s senior public affairs manager in Scotland, said: “It is worrying the number of people in Scotland diagnosed with cancer is increasing, especially as more can be done to stem the rising tide. More than four in ten cancers in the UK are preventable.”

Health secretary Shona Robison said: “We know smoking, poor diet, low physical activity, obesity and excess alcohol consumption increase the risk of getting cancer. That’s why the Scottish Government is implementing a programme of action to encourage healthy lifestyle choices.”