Early cancer diagnosis


Last updated 8 August 2023 - see all updates

1. Main facts and figures

  • in 2017, 52.2% of new cancer diagnoses in England were made at an early stage (at stage 1 or 2), down from 52.6% in 2016

  • between 2014 and 2017, the percentage of new cancer diagnoses made at an early stage increased in all ethnic groups

  • in 2017, the Chinese ethnic group had the highest percentage of cancers diagnosed at stage 1 or 2 (56.4%) – however, this is based on a relatively small number of new cancer diagnoses so it’s not possible to make reliable generalisations

2. Things you need to know

What the data measures

The data measures the percentage of new cases of cancer that were diagnosed at stage 1 or stage 2 (referred to here as ‘early stage’). You can read more about cancer stages on the NHS website.

The data only includes the following types of cancer:

  • bladder
  • breast
  • colorectal
  • kidney
  • lung
  • non-Hodgkin lymphoma
  • ovarian
  • prostate
  • skin melanoma
  • uterus

Estimates are rounded to 1 decimal point.

Not included in the data

Data is not included if it is from an area where information is available for fewer than 70% of cases.

The ethnic groups used in the data

Data is shown for 6 aggregated ethnic groups:

  • Asian
  • Black
  • Chinese
  • Mixed
  • White
  • Other

This means estimates are shown for these groups as a whole. This is because the number of people surveyed was too small to make any reliable conclusions about any of the 18 ethnic groups used in the 2011 Census.

Ethnicity was not known for 5% of the patients with new cases of cancer in 2017. These patients are included in the estimates for all ethnic groups combined (‘All’).


Increases in the early diagnosis of cancers between 2014 and 2017 may reflect both real improvements and better data quality. Comparisons between ethnic groups in the same year are more reliable than comparisons between different years.

In the data file

See Download the data for:

  • unrounded estimates
  • confidence intervals for each ethnic group – find out how we use confidence intervals to determine how reliable estimates are
  • numerators and denominators for each ethnic group
  • estimates for people whose ethnicity was not known

3. By ethnicity over time

Percentage of new cancer diagnoses that were made at an early stage, by ethnicity over time
Ethnicity 2014 2015 2016 2017
% % % %
All 50.7 52.4 52.6 52.2
Asian 52.8 55.7 55.8 54.8
Black 53.7 54.0 53.8 55.4
Chinese 51.3 56.2 56.5 56.4
Mixed 50.1 54.3 54.0 52.6
White 50.7 52.5 52.8 52.2
Other 49.2 50.2 53.0 54.2
Unknown 48.5 50.3 48.2 50.0

Download table data for ‘By ethnicity over time’ (CSV) Source data for ‘By ethnicity over time’ (CSV)

4. Data sources


Type of data

Administrative data

Type of statistic

Official statistics


Public Health England

Publication frequency


Purpose of data source

Cancer is a major cause of death, accounting for around a quarter of deaths in England. More than 1 in 3 people will develop cancer at some point in their life.

Diagnosis at an early stage of the cancer’s development leads to improved survival chances.

Specific public health interventions, such as screening programmes and information and education campaigns, aim to improve rates of early diagnosis.

Monitoring the proportion of cancers diagnosed at an early stage can be used as an alternative measure to assess improvements in cancer survival rates

Secondary source

Type of data

Administrative data

Type of statistic

Experimental statistics


Public Health England

Publication frequency

N/A – statistics are not published but shared with other government departments who have permission to access the data

5. Download the data

Cancer diagnosis at an early stage - Spreadsheet (csv) 7 KB

Measure, Ethnicity, Ethnicity_Type, Time, Time_Type, Geography, Geography_Type, Geography_Code, Gender, Age, Value, Value_Type, Denominator, Numerator, Confidence intervals