National Cancer Registry predicts an increase of over 90% in cancer numbers in the next 15 years.

A report published today by the National Cancer Registry predicts that cancer numbers will have increased from 22,000 a year at present to 42,000-43,000 by 2020. The number of potentially fatal cancers will more than double, from 13,800 to 28,800, in the same period. About two-thirds of this increase is expected to be due to the increasing number of elderly people in the population, and the remainder to upward trends in the incidence of some of the common cancers. Some of the largest increases are expected in cancer of the prostate (a 275% increase in numbers between 2000 and 2020), kidney (an increase of 160% for women and 200% for men) and melanoma (130% increase in women and 170% increase in men).

This anticipated increase in cancer numbers will place a major additional burden on cancer services and must be considered in current planning for staffing and capital investment. The improvements in cancer survival that are currently being seen, taken with the increasing number of elderly patients, will also generate a much greater need for cancer aftercare services and will require a more active approach to the management of cancer in the elderly.

If this future cancer burden is to be reduced, action needs to be taken now, both to deal with known risk factors and to identify others, as cancer risk in 2020 will be largely determined by current exposures. However, reducing risk will only partly solve the problem, as most of the expected increase in cancer numbers will be caused by the growing number of older people in the population.

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