Cancer report: Prevention is better than care says health charity

Thursday 18 November 2010

According to an evaluation of the Labour Government’s Cancer Reform strategy published today, the cost to the NHS of treating cancer was approximately £6.3 billion in 2008-09. Whilst efficiencies have been made in the provision of cancer care, about 255,000 people are diagnosed with cancer each year in England and around 130,000 will die from the disease. [1]

Smoking causes around a third of all cancers so the scope for cancer prevention and cost savings is significant. Although treatment has been improving for most forms of cancer, the survival rate for lung cancer remains low and the emphasis is on care rather than cure. Therefore ASH argues that more should be done to prevent people developing the disease.

Smoking rates in the UK have fallen from 40% to 21% in the last 30 years. The rate of decline has been fastest among men. Deaths from lung cancer have also fallen among men but among women they continue to rise. [2] A recent Inquiry into the effectiveness and cost effectiveness of tobacco control [3] concluded that tobacco control “provides substantial economic value and a positive return on investment”. The report warned “cutting back on this area would almost certainly result in net revenue losses rather than gains to the Exchequer”.

Martin Dockrell, ASH’s Director of Policy and Research, commented:

“The truly cost effective way to beat cancer is to prevent it. That’s why the Cancer Reform Strategy promised a comprehensive tobacco control strategy. We know Andrew Lansley (Health Secretary) is committed both to improving cancer survival and to public health. That makes it all the more important for him to develop a proper plan for reducing smoking rates in next month’s Public Health White Paper.”


Notes and links:
[1] National Audit Office. Delivering the cancer Reform Strategy. Nov 2010
[2] Chart showing trends in lung cancer for males and females in England, courtesy of Cancer Research UK:
[3] All Party Parliamentary Group on Smoking and Health. Inquiry into the effectiveness and cost effectiveness of tobacco control. 2010