10 Feb 2018

Where are the increased prostate cancer deaths coming from?

BLOG: Angela Culhane, our CEO, discusses in further detail the reasons behind this change in figures announced last week.

Last week we announced that for the first time, more men are dying from prostate cancer each year than women are from breast cancer, making the male disease the third biggest cancer killer in the UK. These are stark figures which really highlight the importance of maintaining the momentum in the fight against this disease. It is also something that started some really important debate and got people talking about prostate cancer, raising it higher up the agenda, as it should be. This is a really important moment, and although on the face of it the statistics paint a gloomy picture, we must use this as an opportunity to work together, to redouble our efforts, to drive forward what we have already started – our strategy to make prostate cancer a disease that men no longer need to fear. 

To give the background, the number of men dying from the disease is increasing predominantly due to an increasing and ageing population. Men over 50 are at a higher risk than younger men, so those areas benefiting most from increases in population in this older age group are likely to show the biggest increases in deaths. This may explain why further analysis of the figures appears to show that the number of deaths from prostate cancer in more affluent areas has increased more quickly than in deprived areas compared to twenty years ago. 

It is important to remember that men diagnosed today are 2.5 times more likely to live for ten years or more than they would if they were diagnosed in 1990. So each individual man diagnosed has far greater chance of survival than ever before. This is a really good direction to be heading in, and is due in part to research breakthroughs into new treatments in recent years. 

We want to halve the number of men dying from prostate cancer within ten years, whatever their age, address or background and, in time, for the disease to become a chronic condition rather than a killer. We know that the wheels are already in motion to turn these statistics around. Early detection of prostate cancer is critical to achieving this, which is why funding for further research to improve diagnosis is crucial. Plans to create an accurate test fit for use as part of a nationwide prostate cancer screening programme and plans for the development of new treatments for advanced prostate cancer are already well underway. But to achieve these aims, we need to increase our investment in research. We’re calling for people to sign up to a March for Men this summer to help raise the funds we desperately need to stop prostate cancer being a killer.

It is also important that there is investment to ensure that the necessary support services are in place as prostate cancer cases increase, in order to be able to provide men with the level of treatment and care required once they are diagnosed. We will continue to work to represent men with prostate cancer in front of key leaders in the NHS and government figures, so that the issue remains on the agenda in the coming years. 

In the meantime - and until we have the tools we need for a national screening programme - it is important for men to be aware of their risk and speak to their doctor if they have concerns. Men over 50, black men and men with a family history of prostate cancer all face a higher than average risk. We also encourage anyone with concerns to call our specialist nurses, who can give detailed information about risks, diagnosis and treatment decisions.