One in every two people will develop a cancer at some point in their lives, leading experts now estimate.
In a major milestone that reflects both an ageing population and an increase in risky lifestyle factors, Cancer Research UK (CRUK) said that a new calculation had shown previous forecasts, which said cancer will affect just over one in three, were underestimating the scale of the disease.
However, because of advances in treatment and early detection, more people are now surviving cancer.
Two-thirds of the increase in cases can be attributed to the fact we are now living longer. The additional third is down to changes in lifestyle, CRUK said. The new calculation estimates the lifetime risk of cancer for men born in 1960 is 53.5 per cent and for women 47.55 per cent, averaging at 50.5 per cent.
The risk is likely to increase for people born after 1960, and CRUK said it was confident in predicting that this meant at least half the population can now expect to get cancer.
Cancer is primarily a disease of old age, with more than 60 per cent of all cases diagnosed in people aged over 65. If people live long enough then most will get cancer at some point.
- Professor Peter Sasieni, who led the new study
The new calculation does not mean that each individual in the UK has a 50-50 chance of getting cancer, as risk varies significantly according to age, weight, diet, as well as a range of lifestyle, genetic and environmental factors. The WHO last year released guidelines on how to prevent cancer which can be found here.
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