Ireland facing epidemic as serious cancers rising at 'alarming rate'


The incidence and death rates from melanoma, the most serious form of skin cancer, in men and woman are rising at an alarming rate, a new report warns today.

There is also a worrying increase in the numbers of women developing lung cancer as they catch up on the effects of years of smoking.

However, overall, the odds of surviving the most common forms of cancer in Ireland are now better than ever and there is a record 170,000 people alive today who were treated for the disease.

Rates of cancer overall between 2015-2017 have stabilised or even fallen, although the number diagnosed with the disease has risen, the annual report of the National Cancer Registry shows.


The ageing and growth of the population means around 40,750 people are diagnosed with cancer annually.

The lifetime risk of developing the disease is now one in three for men and one in four for women.

For invasive cancers, the five-year survival rate is now 61pc compared to 44pc in the 1990s.

The chance of survival after five years is now as high as 92pc for men who have prostate cancer.

It stands at 81pc for women with breast cancer - compared to 71pc two decades ago.

The average survival rate for bowel cancer patients is 63pc while for lung cancer sufferers it is 18pc, double what it was in the 1990s.

The report notes, however, that survival rates remain at less than 10pc for some forms of the disease, including pancreatic cancer.

A number of factors have contributed to a better prognosis including earlier detection, improved treatment as well as the reorganisation of hospital services nearly a decade ago.

Other reports show Ireland's survival rates still lag behind the best in Europe, which are also continuing to improve.

Commenting on the overall picture, Professor Kerri Clough-Gorr, director of the registry, said although there is an overall stabilisation and even decline in cancer risk, the increase in melanoma and lung cancer in women is a concern.

"As the population grows and ages, and treatments improve, the population of cancer survivors, now estimated at almost 170,000 people, continues to grow," she said.

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death for men and women, while the risk of dying from some form of cancer is 34pc higher for men.

The rate of breast cancer in women is falling, partly due to the peaks which were seen as BreastCheck screening was rolled out, picking up more cases.

Death rates for liver cancer, melanoma in women and womb cancer are rising.

A class divide in cancer continues with those from the most deprived groups more likely to discover they have the disease when they present as emergencies.

The report confirms the earlier a cancer is found the better the chance of beating the disease.

The five-year survival for most common cancers found at stage one was 95pc to 100pc, but it was still at 43pc for lung cancer. At stage four the odds diminish dramatically, ranging from 38pc for prostate cancer to 3pc for lung cancer.

Cancer is the second most common form of death after heart disease.

Around 8,770 people die from cancer in Ireland annually.