The latest figures for pancreatic cancer rates in men and women in the United Kingdom show that the number of newly diagnosed cases each year (9,921 in 2015) increased by 17% since 2010.
During the same five-year period, mortality rates for pancreatic cancer increased by 13% with almost 9,000 people dying from the disease in 2015.
Pancreatic cancer is the only common cancer to be increasing in incidence and mortality rates.
Why is this?
An ageing and growing population will lead to an increase in cancer cases. However, for most cancer types this will be offset by decreases in death rates due to improvements in early detection and/or treatment so that the number of anticipated cancer deaths will fall. This is not the case for pancreatic cancer.
Age is one of the reasons for the incidence increase in the South West where pancreatic cancer cases increased by 30% in a five year period. South West has the highest proportion of people aged 65+ in England.
Another reason for growing incidence, and the disproportionate increases across the UK, is demographic factors. Areas of high deprivation, for example, tend to have higher incidence. Between the area of the lowest and highest deprivation group in UK, there is a 22% gap in pancreatic cancer incidence. Deprivation is highest for smoking-related cancers which indicates the high prevalence of smoking among this groups. A third of pancreatic cancer cases are linked to
Pancreatic cancer survival rates have remained at a standstill for almost 50 years and this is why, unlike other cancers, morality continues to increase year-on-year.
8 out of 10 people diagnosed with pancreatic cancer will be diagnosed too late for surgery, the only potential for a cure, and sadly most will die within a year.
What can be done to slow down the number of people dying from the disease?
At Pancreatic Cancer Action, we believe the key to saving lives is improving early diagnosis. While no early detection test exists, we are focussing on the following: