Number of working age people living with cancer shoots up 10% in five years

Originally published: 27 March 2018

Too many cancer patients left in the dark about employer’s legal obligations, leading charity warns:

  • Number of working age people living with cancer risen by 10% according to new estimate

The number of working age people living with cancer in the UK increased by almost 10%ᶦ between 2010 and 2015, according to a new estimate from Macmillan Cancer Support.

Around 80,000i more people aged 16–65 were living with cancer in 2015, than in 2010, with the overall number estimated to sit at 890,000ᶦ. The number has risen sharply from the previous estimate of 810,000ᶦ for 2010.

The charity says working-age people now make up 1/3 (36%)ᶦ of people living with a cancer diagnosis.

With getting a new cancer diagnosis as common a milestone as getting marriedᶦᶦ, Macmillan Cancer Support is calling on employers to properly prepare for the eventuality of supporting staff through cancer.

Macmillan’s ongoing campaign ‘Cancer isn’t fair but your boss has to be’ also aims to raise awareness amongst people with cancer of their rights at work.

Worryingly, over half (53%)ᶦᶦᶦ of people with cancer who are in employment when diagnosed do not know their employer has a legal obligation to make reasonable adjustments for them, such as flexible working hours and time off for medical appointments.

Around one fifth (18%)ᶦᵛ of people living with cancer who returned to work also report facing discrimination in the workplace due to their illness.

Anthony Lloyd Weston, 56, from Cheshire was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukaemia in 2014 and has reported experiencing this type of discrimination. He says:

I disclosed my cancer diagnosis fully as I wanted to be upfront about the support I needed, but it quickly became obvious the company wasn’t interested in supporting me.

“It was initially agreed that I could work from home at least two days a week to help with my recovery, but in practice they made it difficult for me to do this. There were often important meetings scheduled on my days off or I was told I needed to be at head office to meet clients. It was exhausting.

“A few months later, on a day off for further cancer treatment, I was told the company was being restructured and my role was no longer needed. I was devastated.”

Liz Egan, Working Through Cancer Programme Lead at Macmillan Cancer Support, says:

“Such a significant rise means more people than ever are facing the gruelling task of juggling their cancer, their jobs, and their financial commitments.

“Staying in work is important to the majority of people as it helps to retain a sense of normality that is essential to their emotional and physical wellbeing during cancer. Employers must be aware of their legal obligations under the Equality Act and ensure that there are appropriate policies and processes in place to best support their staff.

“We know, however, that employers cannot face this challenge alone, and the government must include the needs of people with cancer in their policies on health and work.”

Macmillan is committed to helping employers with its ‘Macmillan at Work’ programme. This is specifically designed for line managers and HR professionals to help them feel confident and equipped in supporting employees affected by cancer. Employers can access a range of resources including the Macmillan Essential Work and Cancer Toolkit. They can also book specialist workplace training.

Anyone affected by cancer can contact the Macmillan Support Line to discuss their worries, talk through their options, or just have a chat on 0808 808 00 00, or they can visit Macmillan’s Online Community for advice and peer support. For more information visit


Notes to Editors

For further information, please contact:
Karmen Ivey, Media & PR Officer, Macmillan Cancer Support.
Tel: 0207 840 4722 (out of hours 07801 307068)

About Macmillan Cancer Support

When you have cancer, you don’t just worry about what will happen to your body, you worry about what will happen to your life. Whether it’s concerns about who you can talk to, planning for the extra costs or what to do about work, at Macmillan we understand how a cancer diagnosis can take over everything.

That’s why we’re here. We provide support that helps people take back control of their lives. But right now, we can’t reach everyone who needs us. We need your help to make sure that people affected by cancer get the support they need to face the toughest fight of their life. No one should face cancer alone, and with your support no one will.

To get involved, call 0300 1000 200 today. And please remember, we’re here for you too. If you’d like support, information or just to chat, call us free on 0808 808 00 00 (Monday to Friday, 9am–8pm).


ᶦ Estimated total prevalence of cancer among people in the UK aged 16 to 65. Based on UK complete prevalence of those aged 0 to 64 in 2010 and 2015 derived from Maddams J, Utley M, Møller H. Projections of cancer prevalence in the United Kingdom, 2010–2040. Br J Cancer 2012; 107: 1195–1202. (Projections scenario 1). This was adjusted up to those aged 16 to 65 based on proportions in 21-year cancer prevalence in England (Transforming Cancer Services Team for London, NHS, National Cancer Registry and Analysis Service, PHE and Macmillan Cancer Support. 2017. Cancer Prevalence in England: 21-year prevalence by demographic and geographic measures. The 890,000 is higher than the numbers in Cancer Prevalence in England: 21-year prevalence by demographic and geographic measures as the 890,000 covers the whole of the UK rather than just England. It is also based on people alive in 2015 with a cancer diagnosis any time in the past rather than those alive in 2015 with a cancer diagnosis in the last 21 years.

ᶦᶦ In 2015 in the UK there were 283,559 marriages and 359,734 cancers diagnosed (excluding non-melanoma skin cancer).
This includes 245,513 marriages registered in England and Wales (Office for National Statistics).
29,691 weddings in Scotland. (National Records of Scotland).
8,355 weddings in Northern Ireland (Northern Ireland Research and Statistics Agency).
299,923 cancers diagnosed in England in 2015 (Office for National Statistics. 2017).
In Wales there were 19,088 cancers diagnosed in 2015 (Welsh Cancer Intelligence and Surveillance Unit).
In Scotland there were 31,467 cancers diagnosed in 2015 (ISD Scotland).
In Northern Ireland there were 9,256 cancers diagnosed in 2015 (N. Ireland Cancer Registry).

ᶦᶦᶦ Figures from Yougov Plc survey of 1009 adults with a previous cancer diagnosis who were employed at the time of diagnosis. Fieldwork was undertaken between 25th May — 12th June 2016 and was carried out online. The figures have been weighted by region.

Survey respondents were asked “Did you know that employers have a legal duty to make reasonable adjustments for people with cancer?” and asked to pick one of two responses;

  • Yes I did know employers have a duty to make reasonable adjustments (47%)

ᶦᵛ Figures from Yougov Plc (above). People living with cancer who were employed at the time of diagnosis and who had returned to work after their diagnosis were asked whether they had experienced any of the following upon returning to work:

  • Employers not making reasonable changes to enable you to do your job (e.g. to cope with fatigue);

Of the 836 who returned to work, 18% had experienced one or more of the above.



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Media & PR at Macmillan

Media & PR at Macmillan


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