This month the SCPN has invited regular SCPN newsletter contributors to tell us about what they have been reading on cancer prevention during 2015. We asked for one paper they thought valuable to share. First up is Dr David Brewster‘s selection. We hope you enjoy it.

Title: Trends in the lifetime risk of developing cancer in Great Britain: comparison of risk for those born from 1930 to 1960

Authors: Ahmad AS, Ormiston-Smith N, Sasieni PD.

Weblink: http://www.nature.com/bjc/journal/v112/n5/full/bjc2014606a.html

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Why is this paper important?

The lifetime risk of developing cancer is the probability that someone will be diagnosed with cancer during the course of his or her lifetime. This is usually expressed in terms of odds (eg, a 1 in 3 chance of developing cancer during life), and it is a reasonably intuitive measure of how widespread cancer is in the population. Although it is only possible to obtain a true figure for lifetime risk retrospectively (after all members of a cohort have died), it is nevertheless possible to estimate lifetime risk for people that are still alive. In this paper, Peter Sasieni and his colleagues used projected rates of cancer to estimate lifetime risks for successive birth cohorts in Great Britain. They show that the estimated lifetime risk of cancer has increased over time in successive birth cohorts and is expected to exceed 1 in 2 for people born since 1960.

Main take home messages

  • It has been estimated that more than 1 in 2 people born since 1960 will develop cancer in Great Britain
  • It is not too late to prevent some of these people from developing cancer by applying existing knowledge

This paper serves to remind us that prevention has a crucial part to play in any rational cancer control strategy

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