The government has been warned that the UK faces a "tsunami" of Alzheimer's disease if research funding is not increased.
The provocative statement came from novelist Terry Pratchett, author of the popular Discworld fantasy series, as he handed over a petition at Downing Street urging the Prime Minister to boost funds for the study of the disease.
Mr Pratchett, himself an Alzheimer's sufferer, said the public needed to talk more about Alzheimer's to break the "superstition and witchcraft" which surrounds the disease. The petition was signed by 20,000 members of the public.
The author commented: "Nearly everybody I have talked to around the country talks about caring for their mother or father with the disease, so it seems there is not a family in the land that hasn't been affected, yet it is like a huge secret everybody shares.
"Because Alzheimer's affects the brain we have some real difficulties about it.
"There is an air of witchcraft and superstition about Alzheimer's as there used to be about cancer."
According to the Alzheimer's Research Trust, an estimated 700,000 people in the UK are affected by dementia and related diseases – more than the total number of cancer sufferers.