Cancer Focus NI responds to official 2019 cancer statistics  

1,130 'missing cancer patients APGCCancer Focus Northern Ireland has welcomed today’s release of the Northern Ireland Cancer Registry’s most up to date statistics on cancers diagnosed here.  The document includes information on the number and types of cancers diagnosed in Northern Ireland in 2019.  

Welcoming the report Richard Spratt, CEO of Cancer Focus NI said, “The latest statistics released reinforce the need for a comprehensive and well-resourced government strategy for cancer that centres on cancer prevention, early diagnosis and treatment.  

“One of the key takeaways from the document shows that early detection is crucial.  Stage at diagnosis remains the biggest factor in cancer survival; the earlier cancer is detected and treated the better survival rates will typically be.   Profile pic of Richard Spratt

“This reinforces the argument for strong public awareness campaigns on cancers that have a clear prevention and early diagnosis message, such as lung, colorectal, breast, oesophagus, liver, skin and mouth.  Awareness campaigns on these cancers could have a huge potential impact on behaviour change, seeking advice and engaging with screening services, particularly in areas of depravation.” 

The figures show the longstanding disparity in cancer incidence patterns in our society remain. Cancer incidence was 14% higher than average in the most deprived areas. This is due to complex interactions of many social, economic and lifestyle factors. For example, the difference in lung cancer incidence is largely due to the noticeably higher smoking prevalence in the most deprived areas (27%) than in the least deprived (10%). Richard added, “Cancer Focus NI have long advocated for a targeted approach prioritising interventions in the most deprived and ‘at risk’ communities where incidence is highest.” 

The lung cancer figures are stark. The number of women with a lung cancer diagnosis has increased from 464 in 2009 to 681 in 2019: a 47% increase in ten years. 

Richard added, “At least 80% of lung cancers are caused by smoking. While the figures show a dramatic rise in lung cancers among women, they have stabilized at a similarly worrying level in men. Over 1,000 local people die here each and every year from lung cancer.  These figures highlight the enormous toll that the tobacco epidemic places across our society. 

“Cancer Focus NI will continue to place tobacco control at the centre of our cancer prevention strategy.  The very best thing people could do to improve their health is to stop smoking.  If you need help to quit, our Cancer Focus NI’s award-winning Stop Smoking service, funded by the Public Health Agency, is available via GP practices, health and wellbeing centres, community, workplace and youth settings.” 

Richard continued: “This report is a vital resource to help us identify trends and future practice, policy and strategy. The data starkly highlights the need for a strong, comprehensive and fully resourced cancer strategy which has prevention and early diagnosis at its core. 

“We will continue to deliver our vital cancer prevention work and encourage people to become aware of the signs and symptoms of cancer. If you have any concerns, go to your GP immediately. GP surgeries remain open and want to see you. Early detection saves lives.”