A report produced by Teenage Cancer Trust and Public Health England considered data on 13-24 year olds living in England with figures from Public Health England’s National Cancer Registration and Analysis Service (NCRAS).
The report shows that mortality rates of all cancers combined in 13-24 year olds in England have decreased from 42.9 per million in 2001 to 32.3 per million in 2015, with the largest reduction in mortality rates being in leukaemias.
The report also shows that the number of 13-24 year olds surviving five years after they were diagnosed with cancer has increased. In 2001 – 2005, 83% of females and 80% of males in this category survived five years. This has increased to 87% of females and 84% of males in 2007 – 2011. In the same time frame, the chances of teenagers and young adults surviving leukaemia has increased from 61% to 71%.
This reflects an improvement in cancer survival in adults, which has doubled in the last 40 years in the UK.
The report found that among 13-15 year olds, the number of those diagnosed with cancer greatly varied across regions. In West Midlands, there were 201 per million 13-15 year olds diagnosed and in North East and Cumbria there were 198.6 per million diagnosed. In South East London the figures were nearly half at 103 per million diagnosed and 123.6 per million diagnosed in Cumbria. However this variation could be because of the differing size of populations in each area.
Although mortality rates have decreased, the report found a rise in the overall number of cancer diagnoses among young people. This could be due to a “dramatic increase” in cervical diagnoses coinciding with a lowering of the age for first invitation to cervical screening to 24.5 years from 25 years.
Teenage Cancer Trust has attributed the improvements in survival rates largely to improved access to clinical trials and the charity is continuing to work towards increasing this access for young people.
The NHS Long Term Plan published earlier this month states that children and young people will be actively supported to take part in clinical trials so that participation among teenagers and young adults rises to 50% by 2025.
Grace Hudson, Trainee Solicitor in the Medical Negligence team at Ashtons Legal comments: “The improvements to survival rates among young people with cancer are greatly encouraging and if the NHS delivers its plan of greater access to clinical trials for younger people, we would hope to see continued improving figures. The report has not attributed causes to the differences in survival rates across different regions however it is important this data is analysed and understood in order to continue to see long term improvement.”