In recent media campaigns, we’ve been using the statistic that one man dies of prostate cancer every 45 minutes and people are taking notice. But what does it mean for an individual man? We explain the facts behind the figure.

9 Jan 2018
In - Research

If you caught any football coverage from Boxing Day onwards, you’ve probably seen or heard our campaign on Sky Sports and talkSPORT telling the story behind our Man of Men pin badge. And you’ll know the message running through it all, that one man dies every 45 minutes from prostate cancer in the UK – a striking statistic that is hitting home.

Since we started using that figure last autumn with our half-time team talks from football managers, we’ve seen an increase in men calling our Specialist Nurses to find out about prostate cancer. But what they also want to know is what that statistic means for them as individuals. Have they got a higher chance of dying from prostate cancer than they did before? Because, at first glance, it might look like things are getting worse – that figure used to be one man every hour.

Thankfully, that’s not the case. For an individual man diagnosed with prostate cancer, the chances of surviving the disease are improving and we’ll explain why. The vital thing that this figure illustrates is the scale and urgency of the wider problem and it’s one that won’t go away on its own.

Diagnoses up, survival rates up

While the number of men dying from prostate cancer each year has increased, so too has the number of men being diagnosed. Let’s look at how the figures changed from 2001 to 2015. Nearly 33,000 men were diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2001 and 10,000 died from the disease. Over the next 14 years, diagnoses increased by almost 50 per cent to 47,000, while deaths went up by only 20 per cent to 11,819.

Some of the overall increase in prostate cancer diagnosis and deaths can be explained by the fact that men are living longer generally and that the population is growing. We also have more accurate information – in the past, some men may have died of prostate cancer that were not diagnosed and therefore not recorded. But it’s also because more men than ever are choosing to talk to their GP about their risk of prostate cancer and have investigations. And as we said above, for an individual man diagnosed with prostate cancer, the chances of surviving the disease are better now than ever, thanks to more effective treatments.

These steps forward are in large part thanks to your vital donations. From state-of-the-art mpMRI scans to earlier chemotherapy, we have invested millions in research over the past decade to improve diagnosis and create better treatments. And through high-profile campaigns – like the one we kicked off on Boxing Day – along with training programmes and information drives, we’ve raised awareness of the disease hugely among men, healthcare professionals and decision-makers.

So is our work here done?

Definitely not. Things are moving in the right direction but, as the statistic shows, the numbers of men dying from prostate cancer are far too high and still rising. Survival rates are well below the European average and by 2030 prostate cancer is set to be the most common cancer.

Huge improvements are needed in the speed and accuracy of diagnosing prostate cancer. (We recently reported that men wait four times longer to be diagnosed with prostate cancer than women with breast cancer.) And we’re only just beginning to reap the rewards of our long-term investment in research. We want to halve the projected prostate cancer deaths by 2026 and we have some exciting projects in the pipeline to do this, but we can only make them happen with extra funding.

A route to a screening programming

Our ambition is to improve the entire prostate cancer diagnostic pathway within the next few years, by introducing a series of tests that become increasingly detailed. This system will allow men at low risk of aggressive prostate cancer to be ruled out of invasive tests and treatments, while catching more aggressive cancers when it’s still early enough to treat them. We hope that we’ll be able to fund the research trials that could lead to this process being introduced as a routine screening programme very soon.

With a more thorough and definitive testing process that catches all cancer before it metastasises (spreads outside of the prostate), we could save more than 2,400 men each year from developing more life-threatening advanced disease.

Beyond diagnosis, we’re investing in a raft of research around precision medicine, which aims to find tailor-made treatments that target specific features of each man’s cancer. We’re also involved in extensive trials to find the most effective way to use existing treatments for advanced disease. And there’s our annual grant round that seeks and funds innovative research that could discover a major breakthrough in areas yet to be explored.

The aim of all these initiatives is to catch prostate cancer earlier and treat it more effectively, eradicating the cancer entirely or helping the man survive with it for so long that he won’t actually die from the disease.

Be the change

So please, keep supporting us and wear your pin badge with pride, knowing that, with your help and a lot more hard work, we can relegate prostate cancer for good.

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