15:50 21 August 2012
Experts have predicted that for people over the age of 65 cancer rates will treble by 2040.
The combined predictions of medical researchers and a cancer charity claim that over one in four will be affected.
To illustrate the peak, in 2010, 1.3 million people over 65 had cancer. The estimate for 2040 is 4.1m.
Knowing that age was the biggest risk factor in developing the disease and the fact that life expectancy is growing in our society creates a fertile ground for cancer to spread across.
Macmillan Cancer Support and a study by King's College London in the British Journal of Cancer predicted that the number of cancer survivors would increase by one million every decade between 2010 and 2040. Fittingly, the largest increase would be in the over 65s age bracket.
Prof Henrik Møller, was quoted by the BBC: "The research shows that large increases can be expected in the oldest age groups in the coming decades and with this an increased demand upon health services."
Seen as a warning for the NHS, Ciaran Devane, the chief executive at Macmillan Cancer Support, stressed that the issue must be tackled and that better screening and treatment would aid greatly.
Devane said: "We have a moral duty to give people the best chance of beating cancer, regardless of their age.
"For cancer survival to improve, older people must be given the right treatment at the correct level of intensity, together with the practical support to enable them to take it up.
"The barriers to older people getting treatment must be tackled. If we don't get this right now many older people will be dying unnecessarily from cancer in the future."
The Department of Health has stated that from October 2012, it will be a crime to discriminate in health and social care due to age, meaning that all age groups will have a legal right to get treatment.
Action can't come soon enough, the study's authors concluded: "It is projected that in 2040 almost one quarter of all people in the United Kingdom aged at least 65 years will be cancer survivors.
"This result, in particular, highlights the potential for significant increases in the burden of cancer on health service and community care resources."
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