Prostate cancer is now the most commonly diagnosed cancer in the UK, according to new figures.
Data analysed by the charity Prostate Cancer UK shows prostate cancer has overtaken breast cancer to be the most commonly diagnosed form of the disease, with 57,192 new cases in 2018 – the most recent data available.
This comes just ahead of 57,153 breast cancer cases, 48,054 cases of lung cancer and 42,879 of bowel cancer.
Prostate Cancer UK said the news comes a decade earlier than previously predicted, largely due to increased awareness which has led to more men getting diagnosed.
Public figures who have shared their stories include BBC presenter Bill Turnbull and actor and comedian Stephen Fry.
Analysis of the new figures suggests new cases of prostate cancer have more than doubled over the last 20 years, while around 400,000 men in the UK are currently living with the disease or have survived it.
More prostate cancers are now being caught at the locally advanced stage (stage III), when the disease is more treatable than if it has spread.
However, more men are also being diagnosed at early stage I, when the cancer may never cause harm during their lifetime, and therefore close monitoring rather than aggressive treatment is recommended.
Angela Culhane, chief executive of Prostate Cancer UK, said: “While it’s good news that more men have been having conversations with their GPs and being diagnosed earlier, it only serves to reinforce the need not only for better treatments which can cure the disease, but for better tests that can differentiate between aggressive prostate cancer that needs urgent treatment and those which are unlikely to ever cause any harm.
“We need research now more than ever, which is why it really is devastating that so much of it has been brought to a standstill by the Covid-19 crisis.
“Accelerating research to recover from this major setback will cost millions, but at the same time we’re predicting an unprecedented drop in our fundraising due to the impact of the pandemic.”
The charity warned that the Covid-19 pandemic is leading to a reduction in referrals for all types of cancer, including prostate cancer.
Culhane said: “We know that the Covid-19 pandemic will have knock-on effects on diagnosis and treatment for prostate cancer for some time to come.
“But as services begin to return to normal, it’s important that anyone with concerns about their prostate cancer risk speaks to their GP or contacts our specialist nurses – particularly if they have any symptoms.
“Men who are most at risk are those aged 50 and over, black men and men with a family history of the disease.”
Turnbull said: “It is really very humbling to think that by sharing my prostate cancer experience, I may have helped more men come forward to have those important conversations with their GP and ultimately get diagnosed sooner.
“But with prostate cancer now the UK’s most commonly diagnosed cancer, what we urgently need now is the research to make sure that men get the best tests and treatments possible.
“Sadly, Covid-19 has interrupted so much of this crucial research, which is why I’m supporting Prostate Cancer UK’s fundraising efforts.
“It’s a difficult time for many of us, but anything you can do will go a long way to making sure we don’t lose momentum in the fight against prostate cancer.”
Prostate cancer does not usually cause symptoms in the very early stages.
Later possible symptoms include burning or pain during urination, difficulty urinating, trouble starting and stopping while urinating, more frequent urges to go to the toilet at night, loss of bladder control, poor flow and blood in the urine.
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