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Significant increase in cancer survival rates

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The number of people surviving some of the most common types of cancer for at least five years has more than doubled since the introduction of the NHS 60 years ago, according to Cancer Research UK.

Survival for colon cancer in England and Wales has risen dramatically from 18% to 47%, while survival for breast cancer has increased two-fold from 37% in 1946 to 77% in 1998.

Cervical cancer survival rates have also increased substantially, from 35% to 61%, and half of those diagnosed with rectal cancer now survive, compared to just 22% in 1946.

But the researchers found that the overall incidence of cancer cases has also increased, with a worrying rise in the number of cases of malignant melanoma in particular.

In 1948, less than 200 men were diagnosed with the disease, but this figure is expected to increase 13-fold to more than 3,000 in 2008.

Professor Mike Richards, the government's national cancer director, said: ‘The improvements in survival rates over the past 60 years for breast, colorectal and some other cancers are extremely encouraging, as is the fall in mortality rates.

‘But the estimated increase in incidence of some cancers emphasises the need for further attention to be given to prevention and early diagnosis of cancer.’

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