NEW cancer cases and deaths from the disease in the vicinity of Oldbury nuclear power station are generally lower than the South West average.

Public Health England said there was no evidence of an increased cancer risk for people living in the area around the plant, which stopped generating in February 2012 and is now being decommissioned.

Dr Luke Hounsome, of the agency, had been invited to report the findings of the most recent examination of cancer rates around the site to the Oldbury Site Stakeholder Group (SSG), five years after a previous investigation.

He said analysis from 2009 showed that cancer rates were in line with those for South Gloucestershire and Gloucestershire but, due to continued interest, it had been decided to update previous work using the latest data.

Comparisons were drawn between local and regional figures and although the rates of some cancers had increased, they were in line with regional trends and well known causes.

The agency said the biggest risks for developing the disease remained increasing age, smoking, drinking too much alcohol and being overweight.

Although there was a trend of higher numbers of breast cancer detected in women and prostate cancer, it was due to the expansion of the breast screening programme and a greater uptake of PSA (prostate specific antigen) testing.

Dr Hounsome told the SSG at its latest meeting in Thornbury Golf Centre that the recent study looked at four groups of cancers – breast cancer in women, prostate cancer, leukaemia and all malignant cancers, except non-melanoma skin cancer.

Figures were also recorded for four geographical areas, including within a 5km and 10km radius of the power plant.

Due to small annual numbers in some of the groups, the most recent 15-year period covering 1998?2012, was used for the main comparisons. Data on mortality was taken from records of deaths in England from 1995 to 2011.

The results showed the incidence of cancer and death from the disease in the area around the power station was either similar to or lower than the South West average, once age and sex differences had been taken into account.

The report concluded there was no evidence of increased cancer risk in the areas surrounding the plant.

Dr Hounsome said: “The biggest risk of getting cancer is increasing age. Half of all cancers are diagnosed in those aged 70 years and older and three-quarters in those aged 60 and older.

“After age, the main cancer risks are smoking - responsible for 20 per cent of cancers - excessive alcohol use, being overweight, occupational exposure (primarily for men) and infections (primarily for women).”

He said it was also important to attend cancer screening when invited as those programmes had been shown to reduce cancer mortality.