In the US, 1 in 2 women and 1 in 3 men will develop cancer in their lifetime. Now, a similar rate has been reported in the UK, with a new study published in the British Journal of Cancer claiming 1 in 2 men and women will be diagnosed with the disease at some point in their lives.

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In the UK, 1 in 2 people will be diagnosed with cancer at some point in their lives.

Conducted by investigators from Cancer Research UK, the figure from the new study surpasses the previous estimate, which claimed 1 in 3 people in the UK will develop cancer in their lifetime.

The research team, including Prof. Peter Sasieni of Queen Mary University of London in the UK, says the new study involved the use of a more accurate calculation technique, which compared cancer rates of people born in the 1930s with those born in the 1960s.

“From this, we can now forecast that a child born today has a 1 in 2 chance of developing cancer at some point in their lives,” say the authors.

But why is this rate so high? Prof. Sasieni and colleagues say it is down to improved health care and longer life expectancies, which ultimately means more people will be diagnosed with the disease.

“Cancer is primarily a disease of old age, with more than 60% of all cases diagnosed in people aged over 65,” notes Prof. Sasieni. “If people live long enough then most will get cancer at some point.”

As such, the authors say health care services need greater investment to ensure they are “fit to cope” with the rise in cancer diagnoses.

Dr. Emma King, head and neck surgeon at Cancer Research UK, adds:

We’re seeing more patients than ever before and the numbers are increasing year on year. But the resources for treating these people have stayed the same. If we’re going to give them the best possible chance of beating the disease then we’ll need greater investment and support now and in the future.”

This finding comes as a study from the American Cancer Society (ACS) reveals lung cancer has overtaken breast cancer as the leading cause of cancer death in developed countries.

Only last week, Medical News Today reported on a study published in the Annals of Oncology, which suggested lung cancer death rates will overtake breast cancer death rates among European women in 2015.

Lung cancer is already the leading cause of cancer death among men in developed countries. In the US, men have a 1 in 15 chance of dying from the condition at some point in their lives.

The researchers of this latest study, which is published in CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians, say the fact that lung cancer has now surpassed breast cancer as the leading cause of cancer death among women in developed countries reflects the later onset of the tobacco epidemic in this population.

In addition, the researchers note there is a rise in the number of cancer cases related to infection in developing countries, such as liver, stomach and cervical cancers. Increasingly, developing countries are adopting more Western lifestyles, which is also causing a rise in cancers that were once rare in these areas, such as colorectal cancer.

MNT asked Otis Brawley, chief medical officer of the ACS, what can be done to lower cancer risk in developing countries. He replied:

We can reduce this risk with smoking prevention and cessation, attention to diet, obesity and exercise issues, and attention to infectious disease prevention – such as HPV and hepatitis B and C.

Screening for a select number of diseases has a place – colon and cervix screening especially, and some focus on breast screening.”

The study authors add that further research into the causes of many major cancers – such as prostate cancer, which affects around 1 in 7 American men in their lifetime – is warranted.

Today is World Cancer Day. This year’s campaign – under the tagline of “Not Beyond Us” – focuses on the importance of early detection, achieving treatment for all affected individuals, enhancing the quality of life for people with cancer, as well as encouraging healthy lifestyles to reduce cancer risk.

Visit the World Cancer Day website to find out more about this year’s campaign and to donate to the Declaration Fund, which aims to help raise cancer awareness and provide support to people affected by the disease.