Cancer costs England more than £18bn a year, but the figure could rise to almost £25bn over the next decade, a report published today says.

NHS cancer costs amount to more than £5bn, £36m is spent on hospices, and lost productivity due to illness and premature death from the disease amounts to almost £13bn in England alone, the report claims.

If survival rates in England were improved to match the best in Europe, the cost of cancer could be cut by £10bn by 2020

The report - The Cost of Cancer - was published by the centre-right think tank Policy Exchange.

It says cancer costs are likely to rise to £24.72bn - an increase of around 34.6 per cent - over the next 10 years, including almost £6bn in NHS costs and more than £18bn in lost productivity.

Despite a continued fall in cancer deaths, the UK’s rate is still around 6 per cent higher than the European average, the report says.

Meanwhile, spending on cancer medicines is only about 60 per cent of that in other advanced European countries.

Overall, England spends 5.6 per cent of its healthcare budget on cancer, compared with 7.7 per cent in France and 9.6 per cent in Germany. This compares with 9.2 per cent in the US.

The report blames late diagnosis, poor survival rates for older people and those in deprived communities, as well as relatively poor take-up of new treatments, as the most likely reasons for the higher death rate.

If survival rates in England were improved to match the best in Europe, the cost of cancer could be cut by £10bn by 2020, the study adds. Some 71,500 lives could also be saved.

Report author Henry Featherstone, head of Policy Exchange’s health unit, said: “Cancer kills over one in four people in England, and is seen by the public as being the top disease priority for the NHS.

“The current cost of cancer - to say nothing of the human tragedy involved - is currently at a staggering £18.33bn, and will only rise further.”