Cancer is caused by changes to the DNA in our cells PICTURE: Supplied

Cancer rates have reached a record high with more than 800 new cases a day, official figures reveal.

Almost 300,000 cases were diagnosed in 2015 – an increase of a fifth in a decade.

Experts said the rise was mostly down to Britain’s ageing population but also partly because of obesity, smoking, drinking and our sedentary lifestyles.

Rates are expected to continue to rise in the coming years, putting even more strain on the NHS.

Figures released on Thursday by the Office for National Statistics show that 299,923 new cancers were registered in England in 2015.

This equates to 822 a day and the number of cases has risen by 22% compared with 2005. Breast cancer was the most common and accounted for 15.4% of cases followed by prostate, lung and bowel cancers.

The statistics also revealed that men were slightly more likely to get cancer than women – 51% of cases were in males and 49% in females.

This is in line with previous trends and experts believe men’s genetics make them more susceptible.

The total cases figure does not mean that 299,923 people were diagnosed with cancer, because some may have received a diagnosis for more than one cancer in 2015.

Emma Greenwood, of the charity Cancer Research UK, said: ‘These figures highlight the scale of the challenge that the health system faces. This is the highest number ever seen and will only continue to grow. Across the UK, we expect around two million people to be diagnosed with cancer over the next five years.

‘Tackling cancer and achieving world-class outcomes for people across the country must be a priority. Cancer is primarily a disease of old age. As more people live longer, more will get cancer.

‘This explains most of the increase in cases, with others due to risk factors like smoking and obesity.’

Cancer is caused by changes to the DNA in our cells and this becomes more common as we age. The figures show that adults aged 65 and over account for 65.2 per cent of the total cancers registered.

Sarah Toule, of the World Cancer Research Fund, said: ‘About a third of the most common cancers could be prevented by making healthy lifestyle choices, including being a healthy weight, not drinking alcohol and getting more exercise.’

The ONS said that although cancer rates are increasing, fewer people are dying from the illness thanks to medical advances.

Patients are being diagnosed earlier because of improved screening techniques and they are living longer as a result of breakthrough treatments.

An ONS spokesman said: ‘Cancer mortality rates have generally decreased over time, despite the increase in cancer incidence.’

The highest rates are in the North East, where people are 15% more likely to be diagnosed with cancer than those living in London, which has the the lowest rates.

This may partly be because of higher smoking rates in the North East, leading to more cases of lung cancer.

© Daily Mail