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Types of cancer

Cancer is the name for more than 200 different conditions – each with different characteristics and treatment options. Below you’ll find more information on the most common types of cancer and links to further information.





Put very simply, cancer is a condition where cells in one part of the body change, grow and reproduce so that they spread and cause damage to otherwise healthy parts of the body.


More than half of new cases of cancer are caused by the four most common types:

  • Breast cancer - About one in eight women in the UK are diagnosed with breast cancer during their lifetime. Breast cancer can also be diagnosed in some men. If the cancer is identified early on, treatment is often successful. This is why women need to check their breasts regularly and ask their GP to check any changes such as a lump or a change in appearance.


  • Lung cancer is usually diagnosed in people in their early 70s and is rare in young people. Lung cancer may not have obvious symptoms until it is more advanced, so it is hard to diagnose in the early stages. This makes it one of the most serious types of cancer.


  • Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men, affecting the prostate – a gland sitting beneath the bladder. Because it develops slowly, many men may go for many years without needing treatment or even recognising any symptoms. It usually affects those aged 50 or over.


  • Bowel cancer -About 1 in 20 people in the UK develop cancer in the bowel (large intestine). Screening can help catch it early. That is why every two years UK adults aged 60–74 are sent a home test kit to screen for early signs of bowel cancer. Another one-off screening test is being rolled out to 55 year olds from 2015.


The 10 next-most common types of cancer are:

  • malignant melanoma – a type of skin cancer
  • non-Hodgkin lymphoma – a group of cancers that start in the lymph nodes
  • kidney – also known as renal cancer
  • brain, other central nervous system or within the skull
  • bladder – cancer starting in the inside lining of the bladder
  • pancreatic – cancer affecting a gland in the digestive system
  • leukaemia – a blood cancer affecting the white blood cells
  • uterine cancer – cancer starting in the uterus (womb)
  • oesophageal – cancer of the oesophagus (gullet or food pipe)
  • oral – cancer of the mouth and oropharynx (throat).


If you are looking for a type of cancer not shown here, or you want more detail, go to:

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