The risk of developing cancer is increasing by around 1% a year but the risk of dying of cancer is falling by about the same amount.

That is according to the 2013 annual report of the National Cancer Registry Ireland.

The commonest cancers are breast cancer in women (32% of all cases), prostate cancer in men (31%), colorectal/bowel cancer (13%) and lung cancer (11%).

The report states that lung cancer is the commonest cause of cancer death in both sexes, accounting for 20% of all deaths, despite the fact that it is almost completely avoidable.

Lung cancer mortality in Irish women is the 4th highest in Europe.

Overall the number of cancer cases continues to increase by 3% and the number of deaths by 1%.

There are over 100,000 cancer survivors in Ireland.

Most cancer patients are aged over 65 years at diagnosis.

The number of patients having chemotherapy has also increased by 13% between 2000-2004 and 2005-2009.

The percentage of patients having surgery and radiotherapy has also increased.

New study on cancer published

Separately, a new study has been published, which scientists have described as an important step forward in our understanding of the mutations that lead to cancerous tumours.

The research, details of which are contained in today's edition of Nature, identifies more than 20 distinct signatures left behind following the mutation of normal healthy cells into cancerous tumours.

Researchers say the study provides new insights into the way cancer develops, and may have implications for how it might be prevented or treated in the future.

All cancers are caused by alterations in DNA, but until now our understanding of how these mutations come about has been limited.

In the largest-ever examination of cancer genomes, the team of researchers led by Prof Mike Stratton of the Sanger Institute in Britain examined almost five million mutations across over 7,000 forms of cancer.

Their research uncovered a diverse range of distinct genetic signatures left behind after the mutation.

Some of these markers are present in many cancer types, while others are specific to individual tumour types.

Known signatures include those associated with smoke, ultraviolet light and age. But many others are still unknown.

The 21 different signatures identified by the group account for 97% of the 30 most common cancers.

According to the authors, it is likely that more mutational processes underlying the development of cancer in humans will be uncovered, and this will help to advance our understanding of cancer.