Cancer risk will increase for women but decline for men over the next 20 years, experts predict.
More than 500,000 people will be diagnosed with cancer each year in the UK by 2035, up from 352,000 a year in 2014, British scientists say.
Experts warn drinking, smoking and obesity are contributing to rising levels of cancer, particularly among women.
The risk of the average woman getting cancer will rise 0.11 per cent every year between now and 2035. But over the same period the annual risk for men will decrease by 0.03 per cent a year, experts say
Cancer Research UK scientists calculate that taking into account someone’s age, the risk of the average woman getting cancer will rise 0.11 per cent every year between now and 2035.
But over the same period the annual risk for men – called the age-standardised cancer incidence rate – will actually go down by 0.03 per cent a year, they predict.
Because both men and women are likely to live to a greater age, the chance of being diagnosed with cancer over a lifetime will increase for both genders over the next two decades.
And because the population is increasing, the number of men and women diagnosed with cancer each year will continue to rise, despite the annual risk decreasing for men.
The academics, writing in the British Journal of Cancer, predict by 2035 nearly 244,000 cases of cancer will be diagnosed in women and more than 270,000 in men – up from around 173,000 and around 179,000 today.
The disparity is likely to be linked to lifestyle changes over the last 50 years, which are now catching up with older women.
More than 500,000 people will be diagnosed with cancer each year in the UK by 2035, up from around 352,000 a year in 2014, scientists claim
While smoking and drinking were once predominantly male activities, cultural changes in the 1970s meant the habits were increasingly taken up by women.
Despite the fact smoking rates have now dropped again, for both men and women, the health impact of habits 40 and 50 years ago are now beginning to be seen.
The effect can be seen in the lung cancer statistics detailed in the report, with annual cases expected to rise 38 per cent for women over the next 20 years but just 33 per cent for men.
Worryingly, recent research found three quarters of the population don’t know there’s a link between obesity and cancer even though it’s the second biggest preventable cause of the disease.
Dr Rebecca Smittenaar, lead author of the research and statistics manager at Cancer Research UK
Breast cancer is projected to remain the most common cancer for women – increasing from 55,000 cases a year in 2014 to 71,000 in 2035.
Prostate cancer will remain the most common cancer among men, jumping from 47,000 in to 77,349.
Dr Rebecca Smittenaar, lead author of the research and statistics manager at Cancer Research UK, said: ‘The number of people getting cancer in the UK will increase sharply in the next two decades.
‘This is mostly the result of an ageing and growing population but, for women, lifestyle factors are playing an increasingly important role.
‘And worryingly, recent research found three quarters of the population don’t know there’s a link between obesity and cancer even though it’s the second biggest preventable cause of the disease – currently linked to around 18,100 cases per year.
‘If things carry on as they are, this is also set to rise.’
Sir Harpal Kumar, Cancer Research UK’s chief executive, said: ‘These numbers are shocking. We know four in 10 cancers in the UK could be prevented.
Reearchers warn drinking, smoking and obesity are contributing to rising levels of cancer, particularly among women
‘Cutting smoking rates and tackling the rising obesity epidemic is key to avoiding more cancer cases.
‘Quitting smoking and keeping a healthy weight isn’t always easy. All of us – including the Government – can do more to help individuals and families make healthy choices.’
Professor Peter Johnson, Cancer Research UK’s chief clinician, said: ‘There is no getting away from the fact we’re seeing ever increasing numbers of people being diagnosed with cancer each year, and these numbers are quite alarming.
‘It is vital that people know how to reduce their own risk of cancer as much as possible.
‘But in addition the NHS needs to be planning now for the increased demands for the diagnosis, treatment and care for people with cancer.
‘We have a serious shortage of specialists in important fields such as radiology, endoscopy and oncology.
‘It’s vital the necessary staff and resources are available to ensure a high standard of care for patients across the UK.’