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Cancer is not a disease. It is many diseases. There might be a cure for each.

Major cause of death in developed countries and worldwide.

Wild, uncontrolled multiplication of cells of a particular clone or cell-line as a result of a series of errors in their control mechanisms and failure of apoptosis. Cancer is not usually transmissible but both oncogenic viruses and reduced immunological diversity such as in identical twins or inbreed populations could be associated with transmission. An example of the later case in mammals is Devil facial tumour disease[1]. The contributions of bad luck (random events such as errors in DNA replication), environment and inherited risk factors vary with cancers, populations, and cultures.



  • 1 in 3 people will develop cancer.
  • 1 in 4 people will die from cancer.


Based on the National Statistics Office 2005 figures for England and Wales.[2]

Top 12 Cancers in Men (excluding non-melanoma skin cancer; 5 year survival in brackets[3])

  1. Prostate (65%)
  2. Lung (6%)
  3. Colon and rectum (47%)
  4. Bladder (64%)
  5. Non-Hodgkins lymphoma (47%)
  6. Stomach (13%)
  7. Oesophagus (7%)
  8. Melanoma (77%)
  9. Leukaemia (36%)
  10. Kidney (45%)
  11. Pancreas (2%)
  12. Oral cancer (62% - larynx)

Most Common Cancers in Women (excluding non-melanoma skin cancer; 5 year survival in brackets[4])

  1. Breast (77%)
  2. Colon and rectum (~50%)
  3. Lung (6%)
  4. Ovary (36%)
  5. Uterus (73%)
  6. Melanoma (87%)
  7. Non-Hodgkins lymphoma (52%)
  8. Pancreas (2%)
  9. Leukaemia (35%)
  10. Bladder (54%)
  11. Cervix (61%)
  12. Kidney (46%)


Cancer is not such an inevitable consequence from exposure to mutagens as some might assume. Different mammals have markedly different susceptibility. For example the laboratory mouse (Mus musculus) is more susceptible than man, while others such as the blind mole rat (Spalax spp.), its extremely distant relative (despite similar form) the naked mole-rat (Heterocephalus glaber), Brandt's bat (Myotis brandtii) and the bowhead whale (Balaena mysticetus) are much less susceptible[5].

Mortality trends

World wide there has been a steady age specific decline in mortality from neoplastic disease of 10% per decade since 1970[6]. This trend has resulted from changing culture and environment (eg reducing smoking of tobacco) and new treatment options (eg lymphoma and melanoma).

Cancer support agencies and charities

There are many charities and agencies to support patients and their friends and relatives. Some are specific to particular cancers, others are more generic. This site cannot possibly give a comprehensive list, but we can attempt to pick out some of those that we, as doctors, are aware of.

See Also

External links