Scottish cancer death levels at 25-year high

Statisticians have linked Scotland's rising cancer death rates with the nation's ageing population. Picture: Getty
Statisticians have linked Scotland's rising cancer death rates with the nation's ageing population. Picture: Getty
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The number of people dying from cancer in Scotland has reached its highest level in 25 years, figures show.

A total of 15,787 people died from the disease in 2012, compared to 14,613 in 1987.

Statisticians linked the growing numbers to the ageing population, with more people living to old age when cancer is a relatively common disease.

But despite the higher number of deaths, overall mortality rates from cancer have fallen with improved treatments helping boost survival.

The figures, published by ISD Scotland, showed an 11 per cent drop in mortality rates from cancer between 2002 and 2012.

However last year saw a rise in the rate of deaths among women, up from 167.6 deaths per 100,000 of the population in 2011 to 173 last year.

Over the ten year period, the mortality rate dropped by 5 per cent in women, compared to 15.5 per cent in men.

Breast cancer death rates decreased by 17.7 per cent over the same period, while female deaths from lung cancer increased 10.1 per cent.

In contrast, the death rate for lung cancer in men decreased by 21.7 per cent over the same period.

Mortality rates for all cancers combined are about 72 per cent higher in the most deprived areas of Scotland, compared with the most affluent areas.

But there were are variations in the pattern for specific types of cancer. For example, malignant melanoma skin cancer has higher mortality rates in the most affluent groups.

Health Secretary Alex Neil said: “We have put in place a wide range of measures to minimise the impact of the rising trend in the incidences of cancer, including our obesity strategy, our legislative programme for tobacco sales and Scotland’s alcohol framework to tackle alcohol misuse which includes introducing a minimum price per unit of alcohol.

“We have also been making good progress in cancer treatment during the last two decades - screening for breast, bowel and cervical cancers have been introduced, and cancer is being diagnosed and treated earlier thanks to advances in treatments and investment in staff and equipment.

“However, we are determined to do more to meet the challenge posed by rising cancer rates, including that posed by the ageing population and, in particular, take more action to improve cancer survival through early diagnosis.”