The annual number of new cancer cases increased by 4% for men and 3.7% for women, according to the latest figures.

In England in 2008, almost 5,000 more men and more than 4,500 more women were diagnosed with cancer than the previous year. The total number of new cases topped a quarter of a million.

The Office for National Statistics found that the three most common forms of cancer for men were prostate, lung and colorectal - bowel cancer.

Between 1998 and 2008, the rate of prostate cancer increased by 36% to 97.5 people per 100,000.

Breast cancer continued to account for around one in three newly diagnosed cases in women. The rate of sufferers increased by 7.6% compared to a decade earlier.

Meanwhile, lung cancer rose from the third to second most common form, overtaking colorectal.

But as the rate of lung cancer cases increased by 8.3% for women since 1998, it fell by 20% for men.

A Department of Health spokesman said: “As the population continues to age, the incidence of cancer rises.

“We are tackling this through improving prevention activity, but at the same time we are working to achieve cancer survival rates among the best in the world.

“In the coming months we will be launching a public healthwhite paper, a campaign to raise awareness of the early signs and symptoms, and give greater access to cancer drugs.

“Subject to final approval, next year we will also start piloting a new bowel cancer screening programme which could save around 3,000 lives per year.”