Dr David Samadi: Prostate cancer deaths surpass breast cancer for first time in Britain
Cancer death rates have changed in Britain – for the first time, prostate cancer now kills more people than breast cancer making it the third deadliest type of this disease in this country. This is according to new research in which figures show more men are dying from the disease as charities and health associations demand more funding and investment be funneled into prostate cancer research.
Published by Prostate Cancer UK, the research found that 11,819 men died of the disease in 2015, the equivalent of one man every 45 minutes, compared with 11,442 women who died of breast cancer. Prostate cancer is the most common form of cancer in men in the UK with approximately 47,000 diagnoses annually.
The top two deadliest cancers in the UK are lung cancer and bowel cancer with more than 50,000 people dying of these diseases annually. The mortality rate for breast cancer has steadily declined since 1999 yet the number of men dying from prostate cancer has risen by more than 20 percent over that same time. In the U.S. prostate cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in American men, behind lung cancer.
Part of this trajectory of prostate cancer deaths increasing while breast cancer deaths decline stems from lack of monetary investment and research going towards prostate cancer. Although breast cancer advances and funding are welcomed and needed, prostate cancer funding has been lagging behind. Since 2002, funding towards breast cancer advancement has received more than double the amount of money for treatment and research than funding for prostate cancer.
Research and scientific papers on prostate cancer have also been historically low with only 72,513 papers on prostate cancer published since 1999, compared to more than 146,000 on breast cancer.
When monetary investment is only half of what is received for investment into another type of cancer, it is not surprising that progress in prostate cancer is suffering. Research relies on adequate funding to discover new treatments and educational means of helping men to gain knowledge about prostate cancer and help with receiving adequate medical care.
An aging male population is another huge factor affecting the rise in prostate cancer deaths not only in the UK but also in the U.S. In the UK, the average age for men to be diagnosed with prostate cancer is between 65 and 69 years. In the U.S. the average at the time of diagnosis is about 66 years. Also problematic in the UK is the fact there is no national screening for PSA testing – men over the age of 50 can have the test done but they have to ask for it.
Breast cancer and prostate cancer are the two most common invasive cancers in women and men, respectively. Although these cancers arise in organs that are different in terms of anatomy and physiological function, both have biological similarities between them.
The good news out of this report is that it appears the UK is making attempts at reversing the statistics more in favor of prostate cancer. There are the beginnings of a nationwide prostate cancer screening program as well as more research in developing new treatments for advanced prostate cancer. This will be a welcomed change well past due in reducing prostate cancer death rates in the UK.
This news reminds all of us and especially I as a urologist, to continue the vigilant fight against this deadly disease affecting men around the world. With more funding for advancements in research, education, screenings, and treatments, we can significantly reduce prostate cancer deaths while increasing a man’s chance of survival and of extending his life.