The number of people in the UK diagnosed with cancer will rise by a third by 2040, taking the number of new cases every year to more than half a million for the first time, experts predict.
Analysis by Cancer Research UK finds that, on current trends, cancer cases will rise from the 384,000 cases diagnosed every year now to 506,000 in the next 17 years.
The charity warned that the NHS risked being “overwhelmed by the sheer volume of new cancer diagnoses” unless the government acted.
It takes 15 years to train an oncologist, pathologist, radiologist or surgeon so the government must start planning now
Professor Charles Swanton of Cancer Research UK
Around four in 10 cancer cases are preventable – and these two factors are the biggest preventable causes.
If recent trends continue, smoking could cause around a million cancer cases in the UK up to 2040, Cancer Research UK said, while more people are expected to be obese than a healthy weight.
Its figures show there will be 208,000 overall cancer deaths in the UK each year in the next 17 years – an increase of almost a quarter.
In total, there could be 8.4 million new cases of cancer and 3.5 million cancer deaths in the UK between 2023 and 2040.
Some 60 per cent of cases – up from 50 per cent now – and 76 per cent of deaths will be in people aged 70 and over, it added.
Cancer Research UK said the figures should act as a warning to the government, because more people will need care.
It said cancer survival in the UK lags behind that of comparable countries and the NHS is not on track to achieve its aim of diagnosing three-quarters of cancers at stage 1 or 2 by 2028.
The government’s new “major conditions strategy” is “unlikely to provide the road map required to achieve this goal”, the charity said.
Figures show there were around 8,000 excess deaths due to delays in diagnostics and treatment during the Covid pandemic.
Cancer Research UK said action was needed to prevent more cancers, to diagnose and treat cancers faster, invest in research and address the NHS’s “chronic” staff and equipment shortages.
It said the UK was not on track to meet its target of creating a Smoke-free England by 2030, while ministers had “pushed back” junk-food marketing restrictions.
Chief clinician Professor Charles Swanton said: “Right now, the NHS is just about treading water.
“By the end of the next decade, if left unaided, the NHS risks being overwhelmed by the sheer volume of new cancer diagnoses.
“It takes 15 years to train an oncologist, pathologist, radiologist or surgeon. The government must start planning now.”
The figures show that the number of people diagnosed with kidney cancer every year is projected to increase by 61 per cent, from around 13,600 to around 21,900.
And the number of women dying from womb cancer could rise by 68 per cent, from around 2,500 to around 4,200.
Deaths from liver cancer are projected to jump from 6,000 to around 9,500 every year.
The Independent has asked the government to respond.
Additional reporting by PA