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Prostate cancer now the most commonly diagnosed form thanks to 'Turnbull and Fry' effect

Henry Bodkin
Prostate cancer cases have surged past breast cancer - © Illia Uriadnikov / Alamy Stock Photo

Prostate cancer has become the most commonly diagnosed form of the disease for the first time, thanks to the “Turnbull and Fry effect”.

Increased awareness of the benefit of getting tested has caused the number of identified cases to surge past those of breast cancer, NHS figures show.

It follows the candid publicity surrounding the illnesses of celebrities such as Bill Turnbull, Stephen Fry and Rod Stewart over the last few years.

Turnbull, a former BBC Breakfast presenter and Strictly Come Dancing contestant, went public about his condition in 2018, revealing that his cancer had spread from his prostate to surrounding bones and saying: "Maybe if I'd got it earlier and stopped it at the prostate I'd be in a much better state."

In the same year Stephen Fry disclosed he had undergone surgery for prostate cancer, which he said had caught the disease in the "nick of time".

The newly-released data for 2018 shows there were 49,029 newly diagnosed cases of prostate cancer in England, 7,205 more than in 2017.

Female breast cancer was the second most commonly diagnosed form, with 47,476 cases.

This represented an increase of only 1,686 on the previous year.

Prostate cancer can be extremely slow moving and around 84 per cent of men who develop prostate cancer survive for 10 years or more.

However, it is still the second most cause of cancer deaths in males in the UK - after lung cancer - claiming around 12,000 deaths each year.

Unlike for breast cancer, there is not yet a good enough test on which to base a universal screening programme that would invite all men for checks in the hope of detecting the disease early, although scientists at University College London are currently developing a new MRI method which they say could provide an answer.

Professor Peter Johnson, NHS England's national clinical director for cancer, said: “As people live longer, we’re likely to see prostate cancer diagnosed more often, and with well-known figures like Rod Stewart, Stephen Fry and Bill Turnbull all talking openly about their diagnosis, more people will be aware of the risk."

The new figures also shows that there were more cancers diagnosed in 2018 in males than females, 165,228 versus 151,452.

This means an average of 868 invasive cancers were diagnosed each day.

Just over half - 54.0 per cent - of all registrations were either breast, prostate, lung or bowel cancer.

The latest data further show a 28 per cent increase in the number of people aged 65 and over between 2008 and 2018: to 206,566.

Lynda Thomas, chief executive of Macmillan Cancer Support, said: "While it's good news that more people are seeing their doctor to check for cancer, these increasing numbers come at a time when our NHS and social care services are hanging by a thread."

She added: "It's more urgent than ever that the new Government prioritises a plan to grow and fund a cancer workforce fit for the future before the system completely collapses."

Many men with cancer in the prostate gland display no symptoms, however needing to urinate more and a weak flow can be an indication the disease has taken hold.

A blood test, biopsies and physical examinations are all currently used to confirm the disease is present.