Background: There are currently two million cancer survivors in the United Kingdom, and in recent years this number has grown by 3% per annum. The aim of this paper is to provide long-term projections of cancer prevalence in the United Kingdom.
Methods: National cancer registry data for England were used to estimate cancer prevalence in the United Kingdom in 2009. Using a model of prevalence as a function of incidence, survival and population demographics, projections were made to 2040. Different scenarios of future incidence and survival, and their effects on cancer prevalence, were also considered. Colorectal, lung, prostate, female breast and all cancers combined (excluding non-melanoma skin cancer) were analysed separately.
Results: Assuming that existing trends in incidence and survival continue, the number of cancer survivors in the United Kingdom is projected to increase by approximately one million per decade from 2010 to 2040. Particularly large increases are anticipated in the oldest age groups, and in the number of long-term survivors. By 2040, almost a quarter of people aged at least 65 will be cancer survivors.
Conclusion: Increasing cancer survival and the growing/ageing population of the United Kingdom mean that the population of survivors is likely to grow substantially in the coming decades, as are the related demands upon the health service. Plans must, therefore, be laid to ensure that the varied needs of cancer survivors can be met in the future.