Background: Typically, lifetime risk is calculated by the period method using current risks at different ages. Here, we estimate the probability of being diagnosed with cancer for individuals born in a given year, by estimating future risks as the cohort ages.
Methods: We estimated the lifetime risk of cancer in Britain separately for men and women born in each year from 1930 to 1960. We projected rates of all cancers (excluding non-melanoma skin cancer) and of all cancer deaths forwards using a flexible age-period-cohort model and backwards using age-specific extrapolation. The sensitivity of the estimated lifetime risk to the method of projection was explored.
Results: The lifetime risk of cancer increased from 38.5% for men born in 1930 to 53.5% for men born in 1960. For women it increased from 36.7 to 47.5%. Results are robust to different models for projections of cancer rates.
Conclusions: The lifetime risk of cancer for people born since 1960 is >50%. Over half of people who are currently adults under the age of 65 years will be diagnosed with cancer at some point in their lifetime.