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Statistics show an average of 789 new malignant cancers diagnosed a day in 2020: statistical press release

Diagnoses of new malignant cancers in England decreased from 327,174 in 2019 to 288,753 in 2020, new figures from NHS Digital show.

A clinician looks at an image on a screen while a patient undergoes a mammogram in the background

Diagnoses of new malignant cancers1 in England decreased from 327,174 in 2019 to 288,753 in 2020, new figures from NHS Digital show.

The Cancer Registration Statistics, England 2020 publication provides information on cancers that were newly diagnosed2 in the 2020 calendar year in England. Breakdowns are available by geography, gender, age bands, deprivation and diagnosis stage.

In 2020, there were 288,753 new cancer diagnoses, which is 38,421 fewer than in 20193. The average number of new diagnoses each day fell from 896 in 2019 to 789 in 2020.

The four most common cancers registered (prostate, breast, bowel and lung) continued to account for over half of all diagnoses (51%) in 2020.

Other findings on the incidence of cancer in 2020 included:


More cancers continue to be diagnosed and registered for males (148,210) than for females (140,543).

Prostate cancer continued to be the most commonly diagnosed cancer in males (24% of all male diagnoses). Breast cancer continued to be the most commonly diagnosed cancer in females (28% of all female diagnoses).

The fall in diagnoses registered between 2019 and 2020 is spread unevenly across different cancers. The biggest change in male cancer diagnoses was in prostate cancer, which fell by 11,463 (or 24%) between 2019 and 2020.

In females, the largest change in the number of diagnoses was for breast cancer (a fall of 8,175 diagnoses or 17% in 2020 compared to 2019). The largest proportionate change among females was for melanoma, which showed a drop of 1,319 diagnoses or 18% decrease in 2020.

Cancer incidence for both genders increased with deprivation4. However, males in the least deprived areas had a higher rate of cancer incidence than females in the most deprived areas (554 per 100,000 for males and 550 per 100,000 for females).


Cancer incidence rates increased with age for both males and females5. However, females had higher incidence rates than males between the ages of 15 and 59 years, while males had higher incidence rates when aged 60 and above. 


Between 2019 and 2020, the number of registered cancer diagnoses for all cancers fell in all regions.

In 2020, the North East had the highest age-standardised cancer incidence rate for males (620 per 100,000 people) and females (520 per 100,000 people).

London had the lowest age-standardised cancer incidence rate for both males (545 per 100,000 people) and females (440 per 100,000 people).


Rates of death from cancer fell by 1% in both males and females in 2020 compared to 2019.

For males, the rate decreased from 307 deaths per 100,000 people in 2019 to 303 in 2020. Similarly, for females, the rate decreased from 216 deaths per 100,000 people in 2019 to 214 in 2020.

For the first time, the publication also included cancer mortality broken down by deprivation. Mortality rates were highest for both males and females living in the most deprived areas. Male and female mortality rates in the 20% most deprived areas of England are at least 53% higher than for those in the 20% least deprived areas.

Read the full report  

Cancer Registration Statistics, England 2020 

Notes for Editors

  1. Excludes non-melanoma skin cancers.
  2. The data cover primary neoplasms only, secondary tumours are not included.
  3. Due to the coronavirus illness (COVID-19) disruption during 2020, these data demonstrate a change in the patterns of cancer diagnoses and deaths, with a significant change in the number and rates of diagnosis compared to 2019. Therefore, trend data should be interpreted with care over the COVID-19 period. The National Disease Registration Service published some early reporting from late 2020 onwards to help with monitoring of any impact using provisional cancer registration data (Rapid Cancer Registration Data), which demonstrated similar patterns. The full registration data adds detail and robustness to the reporting of these changes.
  4. The report measures cancer incidence by Index of Multiple Deprivation (IMD). IMD is the official measure of relative deprivation for small areas in England. The IMD was grouped into quintiles, which were weighted so that the quintiles were equal in terms of the number of Lower-layer Super Output Areas (LSOAs).
  5. This is for age-standardised rate of cancer incidence. The age structure of populations can change over time or between geographies. To let users make unbiased comparisons, these changes need to be controlled. (Direct) age-standardisation achieves this control.  Each age- and sex-specific rate are multiplied by a 'standard' population. These are then summed to give a standardised rate. The standard population used in these tables is the European Standard Population 2013. For more information on the methodology, please see the ‘Methods for rates’ tab in the Incidence workbook.
  6. This data comes from the National Cancer Registration and Analysis Service (NCRAS), the most comprehensive cancer dataset in the world. It collects information on all cases of cancer in England to support improvements in prevention, cancer care and clinical outcomes, while reducing inequalities. NCRAS is part of the National Disease Registration Service.


Channel website: https://digital.nhs.uk

Original article link: https://digital.nhs.uk/news/2022/statistics-show-an-average-of-789-new-malignant-cancers-diagnosed-a-day-in-2020-statistical-press-release

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