Cancer survival rates

Here we look at the one-year and five-year net survival estimates for adults (aged 15–99 years) diagnosed with one of the 21 most common cancers in England during 2007–2011, and followed up to 2012. These cancers comprise over 90% of all newly diagnosed cancers.

How does one-year cancer survival vary by cancer type?

The measure we use here is the estimated chance of surviving the cancer alone and so is adjusted for the background mortality of the person, assuming they did not have the cancer. For more information about this measure, please see 'about this data' below. For the one-year estimated survival data, there is large variation between the cancer types. Pancreas, liver and lung have the lowest one-year survival; with 21.9%, 35% and 36.9% respectively. The highest one-year survival estimates are testis (men only), melonoma of the skin and breast (women only); with 98.4%, 97.6% and 96.3% respectively.

Updated November 2016.

How does five-year cancer survival vary by cancer type?

The cancers with the lowest five-year survival estimates are: pancreas (5.6%), mesothelioma (6.6%) and liver (12.2%). Testis (men only) (96.8%), melonoma of skin (90.0%) and thyroid (87.1%) have the highest five-year survival estimated. As expected, we also see that the survival estimates have reduced between one-year and five-year survival estimates. For the lowest, pancreas, this has reduced by 16.3%; the highest, testis (men only), has reduced by only 1.6%.

Updated November 2016.

How does five-year cancer survival vary by gender?

Here, we have chosen only to include cancers which are present for both genders. Melanoma of the skin, thyroid and Hodgkin lymphoma have some of the highest five-year survival estimates, whilst cancer of the pancreas, mesothelioma and liver have some of the lowest. Only bladder cancer shows a significantly higher survival estimate amongst men compared to women. On the other hand, five-year survival estimates are significantly higher for women for eight cancers (kidney, lung, mesothelioma, melanoma of the skin, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, oesophagus, stomach and thyroid).

Updated November 2016.

How does five-year breast cancer survival in the UK compare to other countries?

Five-year relative survival for breast cancer has been steadily improving in the UK over time, reaching 82% in 2007-2012. However, despite relatively high breast cancer screening coverage in the UK (LINK), when compared to several other OECD countries, the UK continues to lag behind in survival; United States has reached the highest five-year relative survival levels in 2003-2008 (89.3%) and Sweden in 2007-2012 (87.4%).

Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, Health Data

How does five-year cervical cancer survival in the UK compare to other countries?

International trends in five-year relative survival for cervical cancer show more cross country variation over time than for five-year relative breast cancer survival. While survival has been improving in the UK, the country is still one of the worst performers relative to the other OECD countries included, with a five-year survival of only 60.9% in 2007-2012. This is despite a relatively high cervical cancer screening coverage (LINK TO BREAST AND CERVICAL SCREENING COVERAGE INDICATOR). In comparison, survival in Sweden in the same year was 67.3% while survival in Korea reached 76.8% in 2005-2010.

Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, Health Data

How does five-year colorectal cancer survival in the UK compare to other countries?

Trends for five-year relative colorectal cancer survival resemble the trends for five-year relative breast cancer survival. While there has been a continuous increase in the UK over time, in 2007-2012 five-year relative survival reached only 54.5%. In the same period in Sweden it was as high as 63.9%, Australia reached 66.2% in 2005-2010 and Korea was OECD's best performing country, with a five-year relative survival of 72.8%.

Overall, as survival rates capture both how good the system is in detecting the disease and whether people have rapid access to effective treatment, it is essential to better understand what could be done to further improve survival rates and close the gap with other OECD countries.

Given that cervical and breast cancer screening coverage is already relatively high in the UK, it would be important to further examine any potential delays in diagnosis (after screening or first presentation with symptoms) and access to effective treatment. However, there is still plenty of scope to improve colorectal cancer screening coverage (von Wagner et al, 2011) ( In addition, changes to the screening programme (e.g. a new bowel scope screening programme) may also increase the proportion of cancers detected by screening.

Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, Health Data
About this data

Net survival is an estimate of the probability of survival from the cancer alone. It can be interpreted as the survival of cancer patients after taking into account the background mortality that the patients would have experienced if they had not had the cancer. Background mortality is derived from life tables of all-cause mortality rates in the general population. Net survival varies with age, and the age profile of cancer patients can vary with time and between geographical areas, so the estimates are age-standardised to facilitate comparison. Estimates are shown with their 95 per cent confidence intervals. For convenience, net survival is expressed as a percentage in the range 0–100 per cent.

For more detailed information on this data source please see the Office for National Statistics website.

International data:

Relative survival is the ratio of the observed survival experienced by cancer patients over a specified period of time after diagnosis to the expected survival in a comparable group from the general population in terms of age, sex and time period. Relative survival captures the excess mortality that can be attributed to the diagnosis. For example, relative survival of 80% mean that 80% of the patients that were expected to be alive after five years, given their age at diagnosis and sex, are in fact still alive (OECD Health at a Glance, 2013).


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