The number of people diagnosed with liver and skin cancers in England soared between 2003 and 2012, with the rise linked to lifestyle choices, such as smoking, alcohol and obesity.

These are the key findings of an Office for National Statistics study for the aforementioned period which shows that liver cancer incidence increased 70% for males (to 2,449) and 60% (to 1,418) for females between 2003 and 2012, making it the 18th most common cancer in England. The ONS study also found that malignant melanoma, the worst skin cancer, has increased 78% among males and 48% among females since 2003.

The latter increases are considered to be due to changes in exposure to solar UV rays, such as choice of clothing and recreational sunbathing. It is now the fifth most common cancer in England.

On a brighter note, there have been large decreases in the incidence of stomach cancer over recent decades. Since 2003, the fall has been 15% and 25% respectively, for males and females and the decline is thought to be associated with a reduction in Helicobacter pylori infection and changes in diet.

In 2012, the three most common cancers remained the same - for men, prostate (25.9%), lung (13.6%) and colorectal (13.4%) and for women breast (30.9%), lung (11.9%) and colorectal (10.9%). The ONS also noted that cancer incidence was more than 5% higher than expected in the north of England and more than 5% lower than thought in London.

In a statement, Ciaran Devane, chief executive at Macmillan Cancer Support, addressed the melanoma figues, saying that “the increase in the number of people getting this potentially-fatal disease should be a wake-up call to the government that cancer has not been 'fixed' in this country”

“We have some of the poorest survival rates for cancer in Europe and Macmillan is calling on all the political parties to prioritise cancer ahead of the next general election,” he added.