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This briefing gives an overview of cancer statistics for England. It covers detailed information on cancer diagnoses up to 2020 and deaths up to 2021, as well as statistics on NHS screening and treatment. Please download the PDF report above for full information and charts.

New diagnoses of cancer

In 2020 there were 288,753 new cases of cancer diagnosed in England. Incidence rates (the number of new diagnoses adjusted for changes in the size and structure of the population) rose between 1995 and 2013 but have since fallen each year apart from 2018.

2020 saw a large fall in new cases and the rate of cancer relative to the population. However, it should be noted that the Covid-19 pandemic had an impact on cancer testing and diagnostic services throughout the year.

The graph shows the age standardised incidence rate per 100,000 population from 1995 to 2020. The lines are relatively flat but there is a fall in 2020. The line for male rate is higher than for female rate.

Cancer incidence varies with age and sex

Overall incidence of cancer was 21% higher in men than in women in 2020. Over half of people newly diagnosed with cancer are aged over 70. Among people aged 25 to 59, incidence rates are higher in women than in men. Among people aged over 65, incidence rates are around 50% higher in men than in women.

A bar graph showing the incidence rate for each age group in England, 2020. Each age group has a bar for male and for female rates. The rates are increasing with each age group, up to 89. The female rate is higher than the male until 59, and the male rate is higher thereafter.

Types of cancer

Over half of cancers fall into four types: prostate, breast, lung, and colorectal.

A set of four line graphs showing trends in incidence rates for lung, breast, prostate and colorectal cancer. The charts for lung and colorectal cancer have separate male and female rates which are both steady lines. The chart for prostate cancer shows a increase in incidence rate, with a large fall in 2019. The chart for breast cancer shows a slight increase since 1995 and a large fall in 2020.


Cancer stages

Cancers can be diagnosed at different stages. Most cases of skin cancer are diagnosed at stage 1 or 2, indicating a lesser progression of the disease before being diagnosed. Diagnosis is also more common at an earlier stage for breast, uterine and bladder cancers.

Pancreatic and lung cancers are usually diagnosed at stage 3 or 4, suggesting that most cases progress to a more serious stage of illness before a diagnosis is made.


Deaths from cancer

Cancer is the cause of just over a quarter of all deaths in England in a typical year.  In 2021 in England, 134,802 people died from cancer.

Deaths have increased but rates have fallen

The number of deaths has increased by 6% since 2001. But after accounting for the fact that England’s population is both growing and ageing, the rate of cancer deaths has fallen.

A bar chart showing the mortality rate of age groups from 30, to over 90. There are separate bars for male and female death rates which both increase with age.

Survival of cancer

Cancer survival rates vary between types of cancer.

Over 95% of people diagnosed with breast, prostate or skin cancer between 2015 and 2019 survived for one year after their diagnosis. However, less than half of people with stomach, oesophageal, lung, liver, and pancreatic cancer survived for one year after their diagnosis.

Cancer and the NHS

The NHS currently offers screening for bowel, cervical and breast cancer. Coverage, which refers to the proportion of the eligible population who have been screened within the recommended time-period, has been falling for cervical and breast screening, but rising for bowel cancer.

Cancer and the Covid-19 pandemic

Figures reported from 2020 onwards reflect disruption to health services as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, for example on testing and diagnostic services.

More statistics and sources

Many other cancer statistics are available. Selected links to other statistics and sources are given below.

Both the NHS CancerData site and the National Cancer Registration and Analysis Service site collate a wide range of statistics and sources.

Devolved Nations

Data for Scotland can be found on the Public Health Scotland site.

Data for Wales can be found on the Welsh Cancer Intelligence and Surveillance Unit site.

Data for Northern Ireland can be found on the Northern Ireland Cancer Registry site.

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