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During this century there have been striking trends in the incidence of certain important cancers, while others have remained fairly steady. Lung cancer mortality has risen dramatically in the last fifty to sixty years. Colorectal cancer (cancer of the large intestine and rectum) increased in most of the Western world in the 1930s and 1940s but has been steady for the last thirty years. There seems to have been an increase in cancer of the prostate gland in men between 1930 and 1950 but this may reflect improved diagnosis. Melanoma incidence has risen rapidly in the last twenty years and continues to rise, reflecting changes in exposure to sunlight. There has been some good

news. Stomach cancer has been falling steadily for sixty years and continues to do so, and some kinds of gynaecological cancer affecting the uterus in women are now less frequent than they were in the 1940s and 1950s.

The extent to which we can predict future trends by looking at cancer incidence in young people. These trends provide important clues about the cause of cancer, the most obvious one being the parallel between lung cancer and smoking.



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