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Physical health conditions

Although the years 10-24 tend to be a time of good physical health, many young people will experience a range of short term physical health problems.  A significant minority will have long-term chronic conditions or some kind of disability.

Young people aged 16-20 are the group most likely to be diagnosed with asthma


On average, 2,500 young people aged 15-24 are diagnosed with cancer every yearCancer is also relatively rare in young people, but is one of the leading causes of death for those in their teens and early 20s. Drawing on data from the cancer registries, Cancer Research UK estimates that around 2,500 young people aged 15-24 years are diagnosed with cancer every year in the UK and approximately 270 of this age group die from cancer each year (Cancer Research UK, 2020).

Chart 4.13 shows the incidence of cancer diagnoses in young people aged 15-24 is similar in the four countries of the UK. (Cancer Research UK, 2020).

Age standardised rates of cancer in 15-24 year olds are similar across the UK

Chart 4.14 shows the most common cancers overall for this age group are lymphomas, neoplasms, malignant melanomas and germ cell cancers (in cells producing sperm and eggs). However, the types of cancer diagnosed varies by age.

The types of newly diagnosed cancers vary across age 10-14, 15-19 and 20-24

Cancers show different distributions by gender; there are more lymphomas, germ cell tumours and leukaemias among young men and more carcinomas and malignant melanoma among young women (Cancer Research UK, 2020). The rates balance out, however, and overall it is estimated that the male:female ratio for cancer in this age group is equal.

The cancer registry data compiled by Cancer Research UK suggest that since the early 1990s, incidence rates for all cancers combined have increased for all the broad age groups in the UK. Chart 4.15 shows that the average age-standardised rate for cancer incidence in 15-24 year olds in the UK has been on a steady rise for many years.

There has been a slow but significant increase in cancer incidence for young people over the last 25 years

Cancer mortality among young people, however, has fallen, almost halving since the 1970s. Overall, currently 84% of young people diagnosed with cancer survive five years or longer (Cancer Research UK, 2020).

All data correct as of 1st November 2021