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Cancer survival rates "improving"

New figures show that survival rates for cancer in England improved between 1999 and 2004.

The data, released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), follows on from a major study which suggested Britain is lagging behind other European countries in terms of cancer survival.

That study, Eurocare-4, which was reported on on Tuesday, analysed survival data for nearly three million patients from 23 European countries diagnosed between 1995 and 1999.

While the ONS report focuses solely on England, it does reflect more recent figures.

The study, which was prepared by experts from the ONS and the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, concentrated on people diagnosed with the 21 most common cancers between 1999 and 2003, and followed up to the end of 2004.

Breast cancer survival after five years was 81% for women diagnosed in 1999 to 2003, 1.1% higher than for women diagnosed in 1998 to 2001.

There was a 3.6% rise for prostate cancer survival, from 70.8% to 74.4%, with much of the increase believed to be because more men are having the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test.

Survival for colon and lung cancer also increased, by around 0.2 to 0.6%, although five-year survival rates for men and women with lung cancer are still less than 8%.

There were also slight improvements for less common cancers including myeloma, rectum, leukaemia, melanoma, bladder cancer in men and kidney cancer in women.

However, cervical cancer rates among women fell slightly, from 63.1% to 63%.

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Office for National Statistics

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Women with bladder cancer have worse survival rates than men because of delayed diagnosis after hematuria is found. OB/GYNs need to be more alert to the possiblity of bladder cancer as a cause  - Wendy Sheridan, The Netherlands