What Are The Most Common Cancers in Women?

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The goal of cancer awareness is to make women more aware of the signs and symptoms of various cancers. It also aims to encourage regular screening at the prescribed intervals. In this way, more patients can be diagnosed at an early stage and are more likely to be cured.


According to research, smoking is the largest single preventable cause of cancer in the UK, with 38% of cancers being preventable. In addition, a healthy lifestyle that includes regular exercise along with a low-fat, high-fibre diet can lower the risk of developing cancer.


Breast Cancer has the highest incidence rate amongst women in the UK, with some other most common cancers including lung cancer, bowel cancer, uterine cancer, melanoma skin cancer, and ovarian cancer. 

Breast Cancer

Breast cancer is the most common cancer in UK women, accounting for 30% of all female cases. There are around 55,900 new breast cancer cases in the UK every year, with one in seven women developing breast cancer during their lifetime.


Breast cancer occurs when cells in your breast grow and multiply in an uncontrolled way, creating a mass of tissue called a tumour. Symptoms can include a lump in the breast, bloody discharge from the nipple and changes in the shape or texture of the nipple or breast.


Research indicates that many women (over 25%) do not regularly check their breasts for changes. Regular breast checking is vital to avoid the development of undetected breast cancer.


The prognosis (outlook) for women with breast cancer in the UK is as follows:


  • Around 95% of women survive their cancer for 1 year or more after diagnosis.
  • Around 85% of women survive their cancer for 5 years or more after diagnosis.
  • Around 75% of women will survive their cancer for 10 years or more after diagnosis.

Lung Cancer

In females in the UK, lung cancer is the 2nd most common cancer, with around 23,300 new cases every year. It accounts for around 13% of all cancers in women. Lung cancer is the most common cause of cancer death, with around 16,100 deaths every year in the UK.


Recent research indicates that rates of some cancers vary by ethnicity. White people in the UK are more than twice as likely to get lung cancer compared with people from Black, Asian or mixed ethnic backgrounds. This is probably partially due to preventable risk factors such as smoking and obesity.


Your lungs comprise two spongy organs that allow you to breathe. Lung cancer starts in the lungs when cells become abnormal and begin to grow out of control.


There are two main types of lung cancer, namely primary lung cancer and secondary lung cancer. Primary lung cancer begins in the lungs while secondary lung cancer (lung metastases) originates elsewhere in the body. Non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), which is a type of primary lung cancer, is the most common lung cancer.

Bowel Cancer

Among women in the UK, bowel cancer ranks as the third most prevalent cancer, with approximately 19,000 new cases emerging annually. Notably, bowel cancer rates in females have experienced a reduction of roughly 4% in recent decades, largely attributed to enhanced awareness, screening, and advancements in treatment.

Research findings suggest that a substantial 54% of bowel cancer occurrences in the UK are avoidable. The primary factors contributing to bowel cancer cases in the UK encompass:

  • Consumption of processed meat
  • Obesity
  • Alcohol consumption
  • Smoking
  • Exposure to ionising radiation
  • Lack of physical activity
  • Inadequate dietary fibre intake


Uterine Cancer (Endometrial Cancer)

In the female population of the UK, uterine cancer holds the position as the fourth most prevalent cancer, with approximately 9,700 new cases diagnosed each year. It constitutes 5% of all newly reported cancer cases among UK females.

Uterine cancer encompasses two distinct types: endometrial cancer (the more common form) and uterine sarcoma (a rare variant). Common symptoms often involve episodes of bleeding between menstrual cycles or post-menopause. Standard treatment typically involves a hysterectomy, the surgical removal of the uterus.

While the exact causes of uterine cancer remain elusive, various risk factors have been identified, including:

  • Age – primarily affecting women over 50
  • Obesity
  • The use of estrogen alone (without progesterone) for hormone replacement therapy during menopause
  • Difficulty conceiving
  • Use of tamoxifen, a medication for preventing and treating breast cancer
  • A family history of uterine, bowel, or ovarian cancer


Melanoma Skin Cancer

In the female population of the UK, melanoma skin cancer holds the position as the fifth most prevalent cancer, with approximately 8,400 new cases reported each year. A striking 80% of melanoma skin cancer occurrences in the UK can be prevented. This is primarily attributed to the two primary causes of skin cancer: exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun and the use of UV tanning beds.

Skin cancer, characterized by the uncontrolled proliferation of abnormal cells in the outermost skin layer known as the epidermis, is primarily induced by DNA damage, which triggers genetic mutations. These mutations prompt the rapid multiplication of skin cells, resulting in the formation of malignant tumours.

The key to effectively combatting skin cancer lies in heightened awareness and precise early detection, which can achieve cure rates nearing 100% when the condition is identified at an early stage.


Ovarian Cancer

Ovarian cancer stands as the sixth most common cancer among women in the UK, with approximately 7,500 new cases diagnosed each year. It represents 4% of all new cancer cases in the female population of the UK.

The origin of ovarian cancer lies in the ovaries, the female reproductive organs responsible for egg production. In its early stages, ovarian cancer often presents with no symptoms, eluding detection until it has advanced within the pelvic and abdominal regions.

When ovarian cancer is detected at its initial stage, there is a notable 90% survival rate. Regrettably, there are currently no established screening tests for the early identification of ovarian cancer. Consequently, a significant proportion of women, approximately two-thirds, receive their diagnosis at an advanced stage, which poses greater treatment challenges and leads to a less favourable prognosis. A quarter of ovarian cancer diagnoses occur following emergency hospital visits, such as those to Accident and Emergency departments.

  • Key symptoms to remain attentive to include:
  • Persistent bloating
  • Early satiety or a decrease in appetite
  • Pelvic or abdominal discomfort
  • Urinary symptoms (e.g., urgency in urination)
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