About this release

This release by Public Health Scotland presents data on patients diagnosed with cancer during the two-year period 1 January 2018 to 31 December 2019.

Main points

  • In 2018 and 2019 there were 25,412 patients diagnosed with breast, colorectal or lung cancer.
  • For people with breast, colorectal or lung cancer, one in four (25.6%) were diagnosed at the earliest stage (stage 1). This is a relative increase of 9.8% from the baseline which falls below the Local Delivery Plan standard of a 25% increase.
  • People living in the most deprived areas are less likely to be diagnosed at an earliest stage (23.8%) than those from least deprived areas (28.9%).
Image caption Proportion of patients in Scotland diagnosed with breast, colorectal or lung cancer by stage and deprivation category; 2018 and 2019 combined
  • The proportion of patients diagnosed with stage 1 breast cancer increased from baseline (38.7%) to year 4 (41.2%) but have seen small decreases each year since to year 8 (39.6%).
  • The percentage of patients diagnosed at stage 1 for colorectal cancer has decreased over the time period. The percentages fell gradually from the baseline (17.8%) to 15.1% in year 5 but climbed back up to 17.2% in year 8.
  • Lung cancer has seen an increase over the time period in patients diagnosed at stage 1, a 43.3% relative increase from baseline (13.2%) to year 8 (18.8%).


Cancer is one of the major causes of death in Scotland. In 2018, 16,153 people died of cancer in Scotland and approximately 34,000 people were diagnosed with cancer.

In February 2012 the Cabinet Secretary for Health and Wellbeing formally launched the Detect Cancer Early programme. One aim of the Detect Cancer Early programme was to increase the proportion of people diagnosed with early stage disease (stage 1) by 25% by the end of 2015 concentrating on breast, colorectal and lung cancers, which collectively account for 42.6% of all cancers diagnosed in Scotland in 2018.

To help monitor performance towards the Detect Cancer Early Local Delivery Plan standard, the proportion of patients diagnosed at an early stage of disease (stage 1) for year 8 (2018 and 2019 combined), is compared with that of the baseline (2010 and 2011 combined).

The percentage of patients with cancer diagnosed with stage 1 disease can vary because of a number of factors including the presence and uptake of national screening programmes.

The DCE figures provided use the Quality Performance Indicator (QPI) audit information, rather than the Scottish Cancer Registry. Therefore, these figures are not directly comparable to PHS’s cancer incidence publication and are subject to change in future publications, as submissions may be updated to reflect a more accurate and complete set of data from NHS Boards.

Further information

Find out more in the full report. The data from this publication is available to download from this page.

The next release of this publication is scheduled for July 2021. However, given the delay due to the COVID-19 pandemic this proposed date may be affected.

General enquiries

If you have an enquiry relating to this publication, please email phs.detectcancerearly@phs.scot.

Media enquiries

If you have a media enquiry relating to this publication, please contact the Communications and Engagement team.

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Older versions of this publication

Versions of this publication released before 16 March 2020 may be found on the Data and Intelligence, Health Protection Scotland or Improving Health websites.

Last updated: 21 March 2024
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