The number of middle aged Britons developing cancer has risen by more than a third in a generation, new figures have revealed.
Among men and women aged 40-59, the number diagnosed with the disease has jumped from 44,000 in 1979, to 61,000 in 2008, Cancer Research UK said.
Cancer rates have also increased by nearly 20% in the middle aged, rising from 329 per 100,000 to 388 per 100,000.
However, despite an extra 17,000 per year being struck by the illness, the number of people surviving cancer has doubled over the past three decades, according to the charity.
Medics said early cancer detection, new drugs, better surgery and more effective radiotherapy means patients’ now have almost a 50% chance of surviving with the disease for at least 10 years.
According to statistics gathered by the charity, cases of cancer in men have risen from almost 20,000 to almost 24,000 per year, while in women cases have increased from more than 24,000 to more than 36,500.
Prostate cancer rates have risen sixfold in the 30 year period, while breast cancer rates have increased by 50%. Lung cancer in middle aged men has dropped from 6,300 to around 2,700 however.
Experts at Cancer Research believe the increasing number of people being diagnosed with the disease is partly down to the NHS breast screening programme and more accurate techniques for testing prostate cancer.
Harpal Kumar, the organisation’s chief executive, said: “We must redouble our efforts to ensure that our research continues to discover new techniques to improve and refine diagnosis and treatment so that cancer survival becomes the norm for patients, irrespective of the cancer they have or their age at diagnosis.”