Figures have shown that the number of prostate cancer have risen, making it the third biggest cancer in the UK. According to Prostate Cancer UK, it has now overtaken breast cancer, causing 11,819 deaths every year. That equates to one every forty minutes. The leading cancer in the UK is still lung cancer, which kills 35,486 people annually, followed by bowel cancer.  

The number of deaths caused by breast cancer has been steadily declining thanks to screening programmes and more investment in research. However, experts have warned that we are not seeing the same level of research into prostate cancer, with less than half the amount of studies being carried out than we are seeing for breast cancer.

Prostate Cancer UK have however noted that there have still been massive improvements in survival rates for both, and ten year survival rates for those diagnosed now are over twice as high as they were in 1990. A lot of the increase has also been put down to the ageing population, as the risk of prostate cancer increases significantly with age.

Prostate Cancer UK chief executive Angela Culhane said: “It’s incredibly encouraging to see the tremendous progress that has been made in breast cancer over recent years. The introduction of precision medicine, a screening programme and a weighty research boost has no doubt played an important role in reducing the number of women who die from the disease.”

“With half the investment and half the research it’s not surprising that progress in prostate cancer is lagging behind. However, the good news is that many of these developments could be applied to prostate cancer and we’re confident that with the right funding, we can dramatically reduce deaths within the next decade.”

The charity has estimated that in order for enough research to be carried out to meet targets, around £120 million of extra funding would be required. Angela Culhane added. “We want to learn from what they have been able to achieve [for breast cancer] and we can see the correlation between that investment in research and the progress that then follows in terms of reducing the number of deaths.”

Michael Chapman, director of information and involvement at Cancer Research UK, agreed. “The number of men getting and dying from prostate cancer is increasing mostly because of population growth and because we are living longer,” he said. “If we take into account our growing and ageing population, the death rate for both breast and prostate cancer is falling, though it is falling faster for breast than prostate cancer.”

Roger Wotton, chairman of Tackle Prostate Cancer, said. “This is a wake-up call for men and for the health service. Women have screening for breast cancer and this is one reason why mortality rates for prostate cancer are now higher than those for breast cancer. We need to get the prostate cancer mortality figures down, particularly as one third of men diagnosed already have advanced prostate cancer. We need earlier diagnosis and a better-informed testing regime.”

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