Public Health Scotland (PHS) today published the most recent national statistics on cancer incidence in Scotland for all cancer types, up to December 2019.

The data from the Scottish Cancer Registry shows that the risks of developing bowel, stomach and oesophagus cancers and leukaemia have been falling in the last 10 years in Scotland, while liver and thyroid cancers and skin melanomas have risen. Lung cancer remains the most common cancer in Scotland, although rates have gone down in men over the past decade. Whilst this reduction shows the benefits of fewer people smoking, it also highlights that many cases could still be prevented.

The data also demonstrates that social and economic deprivation continues to influence both the risk of developing cancer, and how advanced the disease is when it is diagnosed. While prostate cancer and skin melanomas are found to be more common in more affluent areas of Scotland, they are more likely to be diagnosed at an advanced stage in more deprived areas. Similarly, where screening is offered for cancers such as breast, bowel and cervical, uptake of screening is lower among people from more deprived communities, and later diagnosis of these cancers is more likely.

Professor David Morrison, Director of the Scottish Cancer Registry at PHS, said:

“Our latest findings from the Scottish Cancer Registry are encouraging evidence that when the prevalence of risk factors (such as smoking) have reduced, many cases of cancer are prevented.

“However, they also demonstrate that we have further work to do to reduce the risks associated with other modifiable factors, including obesity, alcohol consumption and sunburn. Together with partners from across the NHS, local and national government and the third sector, we will work to improve patient outcomes and address the inequalities we see.

“For those people who develop cancer, the earlier it is diagnosed, the better your chances of successful treatment. I would encourage anyone who is offered screening to go for it. If you’re worried you might have cancer, see your GP. Don’t put it off".

Read the full report Cancer Incidence and Prevalence in Scotland (to December 2019) (external website).

For more information, view the dashboard (external website), which includes information on pathologically confirmed cancer diagnoses in 2020. However, this dashboard differs from the national cancer incidence figures published today, in that it does not contain every confirmed case of cancer. 

Last updated: 06 October 2022