For the first time, more men are dying from prostate cancer each year than women are from breast cancer, a charity has warned.
As a result, the male-only disease has become the third biggest cancer killer in the UK, after lung and bowel cancer, noted Prostate Cancer UK.
“It’s not surprising that progress in prostate cancer is lagging behind”
It highlighted new Office for National Statistics figures today revealing that 11,819 men now die from prostate cancer every year in the UK, compared to 11,442 women dying from breast cancer.
Since 1999, the number of women dying from breast cancer has been steadily decreasing, while prostate cancer deaths are still on the rise.
Over that time, breast cancer has benefited from a screening programme, significant investments in research and more than double the number of published studies than prostate, said the charity.
However, it noted that, despite the alarming figures, the prospects for men with prostate cancer were “actually better than ever”.
Men diagnosed today two-and-a-half times more likely to live for 10 years or more than if they were diagnosed in 1990, said the charity.
Yet due mainly to an increasing and ageing population, the number of men dying from the disease is growing, it added.
Angela Culhane, chief executive of Prostate Cancer UK, said: “It’s incredibly encouraging to see the tremendous progress that has been made in breast cancer over recent years.
Death rate from prostate cancer overtakes breast cancer
“But with half the investment and half the research, it’s not surprising that progress in prostate cancer is lagging behind,” said Ms Culhane.
“The good news is that many of these developments could be applied to prostate cancer and we’re confident that with the right funding, we can dramatically reduce deaths within the next decade,” she said.
She said the charity believed it needed to fund around £120m of research over the next eight years to reverse the trend and achieve its 10-year goal to halve the number of expected deaths by 2026.
Ms Culhane highlighted that the charity was asking the public to help raise the vital funds needed by signing up for one of its March for Men walks this summer.
“Plans to create an accurate test fit for use as part of a nationwide prostate cancer screening programme, as well as developing new treatments for advanced prostate cancer are already well underway,” she said. “But to achieve these aims, we need to increase our investment in research.
“We’re calling on the nation to sign up to a March for Men this summer to help raise the funds we desperately need to stop prostate cancer being a killer,” she added.
“We are 10, if not 20, years behind breast cancer in terms of research”
Commenting on the figures, Professor Nick James, from the University of Birmingham, said: “We are 10, if not 20, years behind breast cancer in terms of research.
“While we are playing a late game of catch-up, it’s important to highlight that there has been important research which is helping to advance treatment and survival rates of those with prostate cancer,” he said.
He noted that last summer Birmingham University reported the findings of the Cancer Research UK-funded STAMPEDE trial, which showed that by adding the drug Abiraterone to hormone therapy at the start of treatment improved survival by 37%.
“To put this into context, these were the most powerful results I’ve seen from a prostate cancer trial and one of the biggest reductions in death I’ve seen in any clinical trial for adult cancers,” he said.
But Professor James noted that the new figures also demonstrated why it was “vitally important” that new research was conducted to improve outcomes for those diagnosed with the disease.