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Logo of bmjThis ArticleThe BMJ
BMJ. 2007 August 4; 335(7613): 227.
PMCID: PMC1939786

Wales and Scotland have highest UK cancer rates

The incidence of lung cancer in Scotland is more than 35% higher than in the United Kingdom as a whole, and overall is about 50% higher in men than in women. And the incidence of prostate cancer in Wales is 13% more than the UK average, according to a report from the Office of National Statistics for 2002-4.2002-4.

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Overall, there were about 278 000 newly diagnosed cases of cancer and 154 000 deaths from cancer each year in the UK between 2002 and 2004, says the report.

The three most common cancers for men were of the prostate, lung, and colorectum; for women they were of the breast, lung, and colorectum. Breast cancer in women had the highest incidence of all (118 per 100 000), almost 30% higher than the incidence of prostate cancer (93 per 100 000).

Lung cancer caused most mortality in men and women (56 and 30 per 100 000). Breast cancer was the cancer that caused the second most deaths in women (29 per 100 000), and prostate cancer was the cancer that caused the second most deaths in men (27 per 100 000).

The report also shows considerable variation within the UK. Scotland had the highest overall incidence (446 for men and 379 for women per 100 000), and Wales had the second highest rate (450 and 366 per 100 000), compared with 394 and 338 per 100 000 in England and 394 and 345 per 100 000 in Northern Ireland. Scotland also had the highest overall mortality for cancer in the UK (262 and 182 per 100 000), followed by Wales, with 233 for men and 165 for women per 100 000.

In Scotland, mortality from cancer for both sexes was about 15% higher than in the UK as a whole, and the incidence of cancer was 10% higher. The incidence of lung cancer in men was higher than in women.

In Northern Ireland the incidence of breast cancer and associated mortality were the lowest in the UK, and the incidence of colorectal cancer and associated mortality were higher than the UK average.

Ruth Yates, head of statistical information at Cancer Research UK, said that although the incidence of cancer has been relatively stable in recent years, rates of death have fallen.

“This drop is mainly driven by a decline in smoking rates, alongside earlier detection and better treatment of cancers,” she said. “Higher smoking rates in Scotland account for much of the difference in cancer rates between England and Scotland. Smoking causes around 90% of lung cancer cases, and is linked to a range of other forms of cancer, including oesophagus, mouth, and larynx.”

She added, “It is worth noting that rates of lung cancer in Scotland have fallen in recent years at a faster rate than anywhere else in the world. Raising awareness of the avoidable risks of cancer, such as smoking, has and will continue to help people reduce their risk of developing the disease. We hope that the smoke-free laws recently introduced across the UK will help further to drive down smoking rates.”


Cancer Incidence and Mortality in The UK 2002-2004 is available at

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