International Women’s Day: A Spotlight on Common Cancers Diagnosed in Women



A guest post from our partner Check4Cancer

Differences between men and women are a consistent finding in cancer research. The risk of developing certain cancers, the types of cancer and severity of disease are all known to vary between sexes. This International Women’s Day, we’re giving you a complete rundown of the top four most common cancers diagnosed in women across the UK.

  1. Breast Cancer

Breast cancer is the most common cancer in UK women, affecting 1 in 7 throughout their lifetime. With improved cancer screening and earlier diagnosis, UK breast cancer survival rates have doubled within the last 40 years. Thanks to earlier detection, there are now more successful treatments than ever before2.

Breast cancer can affect women at any age, but the risk is considerably increased in older women and those with a family history of breast cancer. Signs to look out for include changes in the breast shape, size or colour, any lumps in the breast or armpit or any unusual changes to the nipple. If you are concerned, find out more about the symptoms of breast cancer and how to get tested.

2. Lung Cancer

Over 23,000 women in the UK are diagnosed with lung cancer each year, making it the second most common cancer in women. Over the last decade, the rate of lung cancer is on the rise with 15% more women now diagnosed each year. Unlike breast cancer, diagnosis in lung cancer is often delayed and 3 in 4 cases are diagnosed at a late stage3.

The single biggest risk factor for developing lung cancer is smoking. But the good news is, quitting smoking will drastically decrease the risk. Signs of lung cancer can be varied – from aches and pains and losing weight, through to breathlessness and a persistent cough.

The survival rates for lung cancer vary depending on lifestyle and health factors, plus on the stage of the disease at diagnosis. Learn more about the symptoms of lung cancer and if lung cancer screening is right for you.

3. Bowel Cancer

Over 18,500 women in the UK are diagnosed with bowel cancer each year. 1 in 18 women will be diagnosed with bowel cancer throughout their lifetime. Like lung cancer, over half of cases are diagnosed at a late stage of bowel cancer which negatively impacts survival rates4.

Bowel cancer can affect women at any age, but the risk is increased considerably with age. Lifestyle factors such as obesity, low fibre and high processed meat diets also increase the risk. Signs of bowel cancer can include changes in toilet routines, abdominal pain and weight loss.

9 in 10 people diagnosed with early-stage bowel cancer survive over 5 years, compared to 1 in 10 people diagnosed at a late stage4. You can find out more about symptoms and how to get tested for bowel cancer at Check4Cancer.

Together these 3 most common cancers make up over half of all cancer diagnoses of women in the UK. But there are other cancers that can only occur in women, known as sex-specific cancer. These types of sex-specific cancer are ovarian canceruterine cancer and cervical cancer.

4. Cervical Cancer

8 women in the UK are diagnosed with cervical cancer each day, with the highest rate of diagnoses in women aged 30-34 years old. The good news is that cervical cancer also has the highest survival rates for women diagnosed under 40 years old5.

Over 99% of cervical cancer diagnoses in the UK are linked to HPV infection (Human Papillomavirus). Cervical screening (more commonly known as a smear test) looks at the health of your cervix, including checking for HPV. You can also now test for HPV in the comfort of your own home with a private HPV screening test.

With all cancers whether affecting men or women, early diagnosis is a key factor in survival rates. Cancer screening is early detection testing, to detect cancers before symptoms appear. And when cancer is diagnosed early, treatment is often easier and more successful. Find out more about private cancer testing and Check4Cancer’s home cancer screening kits.