HEALTH chiefs in Bolton have welcomed new figures showing half of people diagnosed with cancer now survive at least a decade — double the rate in the early 1970s.

New treatments have played a role as well as earlier diagnosis and screening, according to figures from Cancer Research UK.

However, the NHS Bolton Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) said a quarter of deaths in the borough are still caused by cancer and people should still be vigilant.

Su Long, the CCG chief officer, said: “The results of this research are great news. There has been a real focus in recent years on allowing people to access life-saving cancer treatment more quickly, through rapid referral in our GP practices and timely treatment in our hospitals.

“Sadly, many people do die of this disease. Around a quarter of all deaths in our borough are due to cancer, so we urge Bolton people to remain vigilant and seek advice from their GP if they notice any unusual or concerning symptoms.

“Early diagnosis means a better chance of survival.”

Researchers said cancer need no longer be viewed as the “death sentence” it once was, with the new figures suggesting a “tipping point” had been reached.

Dr Harpal Kumar, Cancer Research UK chief executive, said: “It is not very long ago that cancer used to be thought of as a death sentence.

“The reason this 50 per cent figure is an important tipping point is it’s saying that, actually, now half of all patients will survive at least 10 years after a diagnosis and for many it will be very much longer than that.

“I think that does represent a change in the way we should be thinking about cancer.”

The analysis showed that in 1971 50 per cent of people diagnosed with cancer died within a year. Now, 50 per cent survive for at least a decade — an increase of 24 per cent.

But the findings, based on the outcomes for more than seven million patients, also showed that for some cancers survival rates were still very low.

For example, just one per cent of pancreatic cancer patients and five per cent of lung cancer patients can expect to survive for 10 years.