Cancer: Six people diagnosed every hour because of smoking, charity warns

The number of cancers caused by smoking in the UK has reached an all-time high, a charity has warned, with "six people diagnosed every hour".

As many as 160 new cancers due to smoking are being diagnosed each day, meaning an average of 57,600 diagnoses every year, Cancer Research UK has said.

Smoking is behind a 17% rise in cases of the deadly illness since 2003, the charity's report, which has not been peer-reviewed, said, with the biggest jumps in liver, throat and kidney cancers, which have doubled over the last 20 years.

In 2003, there were 49,325 cancer cases of all types caused by smoking, rising to 56,091 in 2013 and 57,555 last year, partly down to the inclusion of cases of breast cancer caused by smoking in the figures for the first time - amounting to around 2,200 instances annually.

Cancer Research UK said it was confident in the scientific research showing how smoking increases the risk of contracting the disease.

Tobacco is known to cause 16 different types of cancer, with lung cancer alone causing 33,000 cases annually.

Although smoking rates are going down, a growing population means there are still about 6.4 million smokers in the UK.

Dr Ian Walker, Cancer Research UK's executive director of policy, said: "Right now, six people are diagnosed every hour in the UK with cancer that was caused by smoking. Every hour, six families' lives are changed forever by an illness that could have been prevented."

The charity wants the new government to re-introduce the Tobacco and Vapes Bill to the first King's Speech later this month.

The Bill, which would have made it illegal to sell tobacco products to anyone born after January 2009, was shelved after the general election was called.

Dr Walker said: "Raising the age of sale of tobacco products will be one of the biggest public health interventions in living memory, establishing the UK as a world leader."

Re-introducing the Bill would consign the impact of smoking "to the history books", he said.

The warning comes as nine cancer specialists said the NHS is at a tipping point in cancer care.

Writing in the Lancet Oncology, the group pointed to "shortages in every aspect of the UK cancer workforce" and said "novel solutions", such as new diagnostic tests, have been wrongly hyped as fixes for the cancer crisis but "none address the fundamental issues of cancer as a systems problem".

One of the authors, Professor Pat Price, co-founder of the catch-up with cancer campaign and chair of Radiotherapy UK, said: "Cancer services are in crisis. The tragedy is that it doesn't have to be this way.

Read more:
Mother 'gave terminally-ill son fatal dose of morphine'
British swimmer diagnosed with incurable cancer, aged 23
Grange Hill star reveals cancer diagnosis

"Too often, policymakers focus on one aspect, like diagnosis, but that alone isn't enough.

"If you boost diagnosis but don't treat people on time, the newly diagnosed patients just end up stuck on long waiting lists. We need quick diagnosis and timely treatment."