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Ovarian Cancer Deaths Fall By 20%, England

Deaths from ovarian cancer among women in England have fallen by 20% over the last ten years, says a new report from the National Cancer Intelligence Network released on 20 November.

The report shows that the rates of women dying from ovarian cancer in England have fallen from 11.2 women per 100,000 (that is 3,820 cases) in 2001, to 8.8 per 100,000 (3,453 cases) in 2010, representing a fall of 20% over the decade.

And the biggest drop has been among women aged 40 to 69 years.

Chris Carrigan, head of the National Cancer Intelligence Network (NCIN), tells the press in a statement:

"As ovarian cancer can be very hard to diagnose and treat, this report was important to help us learn as much as we can about the numbers of women who develop the disease, how many survive and how many die."

There are some 7,000 cases of ovarian cancer diagnosed every year in the UK, where it is the fifth most common cancer in women.

Report author Andy Nordin, gynaecological oncologist at East Kent Hospitals University NHS Foundation Trust, calls the report "very encouraging".

Ovarian cancer has always been "notoriously hard to treat", says Nordin, explaining it is "because ovarian cancer is a group of different disease types, which is difficult to diagnose and commonly presents as advanced disease." Detection and Treatment Improving The report also shows that the proportion of women surviving the disease for at least a year has gone up from 57 to 73%, and the proportion surviving for more than 5 years has risen from 33 to 44%.

Nordin says the fall in deaths could be because we are getting better at detecting and treating ovarian cancer. He cites improvements in scanning, surgery and chemotherapy treatments.

"Additionally, over the past decade, ovarian cancer patients throughout the UK have experienced better management due to organisation of ovarian cancer care in specialist gynaecological cancer centres, planning of care by teams of cancer experts and specialist surgery by specially trained and accredited gynaecological oncologists," he adds. Survival Rates Worsen with Age However, the figures show survival rates worsen with increasing age, even after adjusting for the generally higher rates of death among older people.

In 2009, nearly half of women diagnosed with the disease were aged 60 and over, and more than 80% of deaths were of women in that age group.

For women diagnosed between the ages of 15 and 39, the report shows the proportion that survived for at least 5 years was 84%, a big contrast to the 14% of those who survived more than 5 years after diagnosis at age 85. Contraceptive Pill Could Be Reason for Fall In Incidence The report also shows that the rates for developing the disease have stayed fairly stable since the late 1980s, showing a slight fall in more recent years.

Nordin says there is evidence that some types of ovarian cancer are linked to the number of times a woman ovulates in her lifetime.

"And anytime that she stops ovulating such as during pregnancy and breast feeding, early menopause, and taking the contraceptive pill, all help to protect against the disease developing," he adds, explaining that:

"The fall in incidence could therefore partially reflect the widespread use of hormonal contraceptives since the '60s."

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