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Teenage cancer death toll has halved in decade

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The number of teenagers and young adults dying from cancer has almost halved in the last three decades, figures show.

Between 1975 and 1977, 580 youngsters aged 15 to 24 died from the disease every year in Britain. The number fell to about 300 a year between 2008 and 2010, Cancer Research UK said.

The largest drop in deaths over the last 15 years was for leukaemia - from an average of 54 young men dying from the disease each year between 1995 and 1999 to 39 deaths in 2006 to 2010. And for young women the death toll fell from 38 to 21 deaths per year.

While the death rates have fallen, the incidence is rising for almost all types of teenage and young adult cancers, the charity said.

Cancer Research UK teenage cancer expert Professor Jillian Birch said: “We’ve made great progress in helping more teenagers and young adults survive cancer, and today over 80% will beat the disease.

“But there remains a problem with getting teenagers and young adults on to clinical trials - less than 20% are on trials compared to around 50 to 70% of children.

“We need to drastically improve this so that we can develop better treatments, help more teenagers and young adults survive the disease and offer hope to patients with harder to treat cancers.”

Simon Davies, chief executive officer of the Teenage Cancer Trust, said: “It’s fantastic to see such a fall in the number of young people dying from some types of cancers during this time.

“However, many of the rarer cancers which affect young people like sarcomas have made little or no progress.

“More investment in rare cancer research is urgently needed. We want to work with Cancer Research UK and the pharmaceutical industry to ensure better access to clinical trials for young people with cancer.”

Dr Harpal Kumar, Cancer Research UK’s chief executive, added: “Being diagnosed with cancer is a devastating time for patients, their family and friends.

“More needs to be done to make treatments more effective and kinder.

“Drug development and clinical trials are at the heart of helping more teenagers and young adults both survive cancer and live a full life after their treatment.

“Too many young people are left out of clinical trials due to rigid age restrictions and this must change for us to continue to see improvements across all cancer types.

“But we’ve got to take this challenge on from different and creative angles.”


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