Cancer patient numbers will almost double in next 10 years

A lung cancer X-ray. Photo:

The number of cancer patients living in the Netherlands is set to almost double in the next 10 years as the population ages and survival rates improve.

Research and data agency Integraal Kankercentrum Nederland (IKNL) estimates that 1.4 million people will have had a cancer diagnosis in 2032, accounting for 7.5% of the projected population of 18.5 million.

An estimated 800,000 people living today have had treatment for cancer at some stage in their lives. The number is expected to rise considerably as both life expectancy and the average age of the population increases over the next decade.

The number of cancer diagnoses is expected to reach 156,000 by 2032, from 118,000 in 2019.

IKNL is calling for more preventive measures to be taken to cut the death rate and the cost of treatment, as well as lifestyle changes to reduce the number of cases of cancers linked to obesity, drinking and smoking.

‘Cancer often appears in people who are over 70,’ Valery Lemmens, senior researcher at IKNL and professor of cancer surveillance at Erasmus University. ‘But the way you’ve lived affects your risk profile. You can’t really reverse a life filled with cigarettes and alcohol.’

Preventive measures

Survival rates for some of the most common types of cancer have increased, with 90% of people diagnosed with melanoma still alive after five years. For basal cell carcinoma the proportion is close to 100%.

‘We need to take preventive measures, like making sunscreen free for people who work outside a lot of the time. Especially in a time when healthcare costs are rising fast,’ Lemmers said.

‘Treating a melanoma after it’s metastasised can easily cost €100,000. Treatment is cheaper when you catch it in time.’

One of the most striking trends is in lung cancer, with women set to overtake men in the next five years. In the 1980s six times as many men were diagnosed with lung cancer, but the gap has closed after it became more socially acceptable for women to smoke in the 1960s.

Men will be more likely to develop cancers of the liver, kidneys and bile duct in the next 10 years, all types that are more common in people who are overweight. The five-year survival rate is 25% for liver cancer and just 10% for cancer of the bile duct.

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