50% of people diagnosed with cancer today will survive their disease for at least 10 years, compared with just 25% in the early 1970s, new data from Cancer Research UK shws.

Women with breast cancer now have a 78% chance of surviving at least a decade, compared to only 40% 40 years ago, while 10-year survival for men with testicular cancer has jumped from 69% to 98% since the 1970s. And for people diagnosed with malignant melanoma, the most serious form of skin cancer, 10-year survival has leapt from 46% to 89%, the charity reports.

However, the data also show that just 1% of pancreatic cancer patients and 5% of lung cancer patients diagnosed today are expected to survive 10 years. Survival from oesophageal cancer is still far too low at 12% (although it was just 4% 40 years ago), and brain tumour survival is also very low at just 13%, despite more than doubling in the last 40 years.

Change for these cancers has been slower than hoped, says Cancer Research UK, and it has set out new plans to accelerate progress, with the goal of at least 10-year survival for 75% of all cancer patients diagnosed in 20 years’ time.

Saving more lives from all cancers, including those that are hard to treat, is the overriding focus on the new strategy, which details a raft of measures aimed at accelerating the speed of progress.

A key priority is ensuring that cancer patients are diagnosed at the earliest possible stage of their disease, when treatment is more likely to be successful. The charity also plans to fund more scientists from different disciplines - collaboration is key to moving discoveries from the laboratory into the clinic so that patients will benefit sooner.

Professor Michael Coleman, head of Cancer Research UK’s Cancer Survival Group at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, whose team produced the survival figures, said: “these results come from detailed analysis of the survival of more than seven million cancer patients diagnosed in England and Wales since the 1970s. They show just how far we’ve come in improving cancer survival, but they also shine a spotlight on areas where much more needs to be done.”

“Each year, more and more people are diagnosed with cancer,” the charity’s chief executive, Dr Harpal Kumar, pointed out. “We believe no-one should be diagnosed too late for their life to be saved and effective treatments should be available to every patient, no matter what type of cancer they have.”

“Achieving our ambition to see three-quarters of all cancer patients surviving their disease in the next 20 years will be challenging. But with the continued commitment of our scientists, doctors and nurses and the generous support of the British public, we hope to see our progress accelerate over the coming years to make this a reality,” said Dr Kumar.