There are over 200 different types of cancer, each with its own risk factors, methods of diagnosis and treatment. Some of the known causes of cancer are excessive alcohol consumption, exposure to asbestos, unhealthy dietphysical inactivity, being overweight or obese, being exposed to natural and man-made radiation, smoking and tobacco use, ultraviolet light (including sun exposure and use of sun beds), and viruses such as human papilloma virus (HPV).

Emerging evidence suggests that 50,000 cancer diagnoses have been missed across the UK due to the Covid-19 pandemic. This is primarily due to later presentations with symptoms, cancellations to appointments and longer waits to see specialists. Some people may also be reluctant to address concerns or attend GP practices due to fear of catching Covid-19. While evidence suggests mitigating risk from Covid-19 through promoting a healthy lifestyle, stopping smoking, and engaging with vaccination/booster programmes, these approaches may not be accessible or achievable for all, for many reasons.

These missed diagnoses mean that treatment is delayed or doesn't happen. Cancer diagnosed at a later or more advanced stage may be more difficult to treat, with reduced survivability in some cases. The full extent of the pandemic on cancer prevalence, incidence and mortality will become clearer as more data are collected. For current data on cases and deaths, please see the Government's Coronavirus page. 

Key findings


Prevalence refers to the number of cases of a disease that are present in a particular population at a given time. In the case of cancer, the prevalence data are from the Quality and Outcomes Framework (QOF) disease registers, while the reported cancer figure is from the GP Patient Survey (2021).

  • The latest figures (2021/22) indicate that there are 68,525 (3.8%) known cases of cancer across the NHS Lancashire and South Cumbria Integrated Care Board footprint (L&SC ICB), which includes Blackburn with Darwen, Blackpool and South Cumbria, higher than England (3.3%).
  • The percentage of people reporting cancer in the last five years across the L&SC ICB (2022) is 3.5%, similar to England (3.2%)

Incidence and admissions

Incidence refers to the total number of new confirmed (diagnosed) cases of a disease, in a population at a given period of time. For cancer, the data are all new diagnoses of malignant cancer (ICD10 C00-C97), excluding skin cancers other than malignant melanoma, from the National Cancer Registration Service. The rates below are a crude rate per 100,000 of the population (all ages) (2019/20). 

  • There were 9,063 new cases of cancer across the L&SC ICB footprint, giving a rate of 507. This is higher compared to England (456).
  • There were 9,338 emergency admissions with cancer (2021/22) in L&SC ICB.
  • In Lancashire 48.9% of cancers were diagnosed at stages 1 and 2 (2020) which is significantly lower than the England proportions (52.3%) with a trend of this getting worse, Blackburn with Darwen is also significantly worse (43.7%) whilst in Blackpool the proportion is similar to England.

All-age mortality

The rates below are directly standardised and are for 100,000 of the population (all ages) for 2021 unless otherwise stated.

  • In the Lancashire-12 area the mortality rate from cancer is 252.1 which is similar to the England rate (248.3), Blackpool (325.9) and Blackburn with Darwen (290.6) have significantly higher mortality rates.
  • Mortality rates are similar to England overall for lung cancer, breast cancer and colorectal cancer but the rate for lung cancer mortality for females in Lancashire is significantly higher (50.4 vs 42.4 for England)
  • In Blackpool and Blackburn with Darwen mortality rates for lung cancer are significantly worse than England for Blackpool the rates are worse for both males and females whilst in Blackburn it is higher for females.
  • 2,258 deaths were classed as 'smoking attributable deaths from cancer', giving the area a rate of 99.5, significantly higher than England (89.6). Blackpool (142.7) and Blackburn with Darwen (137.2) are both significantly higher than England. 
  • The mortality rate from oral cancer for Lancashire-12 (2017-19) was (5.3) and Blackpool (6.3) are both similar to England (4.7), while Blackburn with Darwen (7.9) is significantly higher.

Premature mortality

Reducing premature mortality - referred to as mortality in persons aged 74 or under - is a major priority for both the Office for Health Improvement & Disparities (OHID - formerly Public Health England) and the NHS, with many deaths caused by diseases and illnesses that are considered avoidable or preventable. The rates below are directly standardised and are for 100,000 of the population (under-75 years) for 2021.

  • There were 1,552 premature deaths from cancer across Lancashire-12 and of these, 674 were considered preventable. 
  • The rate of premature mortality from cancer in Lancashire-12 (130.6) is significantly higher compared to the England value (121.5). 
  • The rate of premature mortality from cancer considered preventable in Lancashire-12 (55.4) is significantly higher than England (50.1). For males the rate is similar to England but for females it is significantly worse. 
  • Blackpool (100.7) and Blackburn with Darwen (55.9) also recorded rates significantly above England for premature mortality from cancer considered preventable.

The Neighbourhood Intelligence Mortality Dashboard shows the standardised mortality ratio (SMR) for all cancers for wards in Lancashire (2016-20).

OHID also produces the Cancer Services profiles for further details.

Please note, there have been changes in trends due to Covid-19 impacting on some activity. Please consider this at all times when interpreting in particular 2020/21 figures and, to a smaller degree, 2019/20 results.

For additional county and unitary data and further information please see below. Please select the geography type to see what indicators are available as not all are provided across the different footprints.

Page updated June 2023