Survival estimates for nearly all cancers have improved since the early 1970s. While estimates have improved more for some cancers than others, generally there’s a more positive outlook for many cancer patients than there used to be.
The survival estimates used here tell us the percentage of people who survived one year or more, five years or more and 10 years or more after being diagnosed in the given year.
Hover over the chart to investigate how survival estimates have changed for the 21 most common cancers in England in 1971 and 20111.
One year, five year and 10 year survival estimates for the 21 most common cancers in England, 1971 and 2011
Big improvements in leukaemia and multiple myeloma estimates, but pancreatic cancer estimates remain low
The biggest improvement in survival estimates is for leukaemia. This is partly due to the development of, and improvements in chemotherapy treatments. In 1971 there were no effective treatments for leukaemia, unlike solid organ tumours, which could be surgically removed2.
There have also been big improvements in the survival estimates for people diagnosed with multiple myeloma (a cancer of the bone marrow). Some of this increase is likely to be because of earlier diagnosis and better detection, though improvements in estimates since the early 1990s probably reflect more effective treatment options3.
Survival estimates for pancreatic cancer remain low: – the one year survival estimate is up from 11% to 21% but the five year estimate has only risen from 2% to 3% and the 10 year survival estimate has stayed the same, 1%. These low estimates may be explained by the fact pancreatic cancer doesn’t usually have many symptoms until the tumour has grown to a significant size. Diagnosis then takes place at a late stage, when the cancer is already likely to have spread to other parts of the body4.
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The latest one and five year cancer survival estimates are available here. 10 year survival was not calculated as part of this release.
Survival estimates for breast cancer are based only on female patients (males can get breast cancer, but more than 99% of patients are female).
Survival rates for cancer of the larynx (voice box) are based only on male patients (females can get cancer of the larynx, but the vast majority of patients are male).
Multiple myeloma is a cancer than affects the bone marrow.
Non Hodgkin lymphoma and Hodgkin’s disease are cancers that affect the lymphatic system (part of the immune system).
Melanoma of the skin is skin cancer
The analysis does not include non-melanoma skin cancer. Although this cancer is very common the available figures are known to be under-estimates and unreliable for comparison purposes.
Cancer registrations are collected by the National Cancer Registration Service, part of Public Health England.
Analysis was undertaken by the Cancer Survival Group at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine.