Why is cancer more common as we age?


Cancer can occur at any age, but it is much more common in older people. In fact, half of all cancer cases in the UK each year are diagnosed in people aged 70 or over. Even though there are a few types of cancer that affect younger people more than older people, the majority of cancer types (including the most common types: breast, lung and prostate cancer) are more common in older people.

This is because cells in the body which have become damaged over time may grow and multiply more than normal and form cancerous tumours. Damage to cells may occur as a result of smoking, drinking alcohol and other lifestyle factors, but there are also genetic factors which make some people more likely to develop cancer.

This doesn’t mean that getting cancer is inevitable or that you can’t do anything about it. Making the right lifestyle choices, such as stopping smoking, maintaining a healthy weight and reducing alcohol intake can all help to reduce your risk of developing cancer whatever age you are. Being aware of any changes to your body or health and seeing your doctor promptly is more important as you age and the link between age and cancer is the reason why people in particular age groups are invited to take part in screening programmes that aim to detect cancer at an early stage.

You can find out if you are eligible for any of the UK cancer screening programmes on the Cancer Research UK website.  cancer screening webpage.

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