The death rate from cancer has dropped by more than a fifth since the 1990s according to analysis from Cancer Research UK.
In 1990, 220 in every 100,000 people died of cancer. Due to research improving the outcome for patients, this fell overall by 22% to 170 per 100,000 in 2011.
Research has proved to be the key factor in reducing the number of lives lost to cancer, with improved knowledge about preventing the disease, surgical techniques, precisely targeted radiotherapy and more effective drugs all boosting the outcome for patients.
Between 1990 and 2011 the cancer mortality rate for women fell by 20% from 185 down to 147 per 100,000.
For men deaths dropped by 26% from 277 down to 203 per 100,000.
Death rates showed the proportion of people in the UK who are dying of the disease has fallen dramatically even though more people are being diagnosed with the disease. The rising number of diagnoses is largely due to the UK's ageing population and cancer being more common in older people.
The importance of research into the causes of cancer is demonstrated by the big falls in the number of people diagnosed with lung cancer as a result of fewer men smoking.
Death rates for lung cancer in men have dropped by two fifths (41%) in the last 20 years. But more research is still needed into developing more effective lung cancer treatments, the charity said.
Professor Peter Johnson, Cancer Research UK's chief clinician, said: "We needed to give patients more options and better news about their future. I was impatient for more advances sooner and I still am.
"But clearly we're moving in the right direction. I've personally seen in my clinics, incredible advances in cures for cancers like leukaemia and improvements in treatment options for prostate cancer. But no clinician, no researcher and no patient will be happy until we've driven down the death rate even further through research."
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