Objectives To examine trends in prostate cancer incidence and mortality in England and Wales between 1971 and 1998, using a newly developed and validated national cancer database and the national mortality database.
Methods Age-standardized incidence and death rates were calculated directly and trends in relative survival rates among men with prostate cancer registered during 1971–1990 were examined.
Results The annual number of new cases of prostate cancer registered in England and Wales increased by 179% between 1971 and 1993, from 6174 to 17 210. Directly age-standardized incidence rates increased by 104% between 1971 and 1993, from 29 to 59 per 100 000. The number of deaths from prostate cancer increased by 113% between 1971 and 1998, from 4027 to 8570. Directly age-standardized death rates increased by 49% between 1971 and 1995 and then decreased by 8% between 1995 and 1998, an overall increase of 38% (20 to 27 per 100 000) between 1971 and 1998. The relative survival rate for prostate cancer among men diagnosed during 1986–1990 was 77% at 1 year and 42% at 5 years, compared with 67% and 33%, respectively, for cases diagnosed during 1971–1975. The increase in survival rates was confined to men diagnosed with prostate cancer up to 1985 and no increase was seen for cases diagnosed after 1985.
Conclusions Prostate cancer is becoming a growing burden on the health service. The explanation for the large increase in prostate cancer incidence and mortality is unclear and needs further investigation. The lack of any improvement in survival rates in cases diagnosed after 1985 is of concern, and suggests that the current management of prostate cancer in both primary and secondary care may need to be reviewed.