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Cancer is a diverse group of diseases in which some of the body's cells become defective and multiply out of control. These defective (abnormal) cells form lumps (tumours) and invade and damage the tissues around them. They can also spread (metastasise) to other parts of the body and can cause further damage.

If the spread of tumours is not controlled they can result in death. Not all tumours are invasive. Some are benign, which means they do not spread to other parts of the body and are rarely life-threatening.

Cancers are distinguished from one another by the location in the body where they began (the primary site) and/or by the type of cell involved (histology). For example, cancer that begins in the lung is called lung cancer and cancer that begins in the breast is called breast cancer, regardless of whether or not it has metastasised (spread) to other sites.


The estimated total number of new cancers diagnosed in 2012 was 120,710. Of these new cancers diagnosed, 67,260 were diagnosed in males, and 53,460 in females.

The estimated five most commonly diagnosed cancers in 2012 were prostate (18,560), bowel (15,840), breast (14,680), melanoma of the skin (12,510) and lung (11,280).

Cancer incidence in 2012 PNG

Mortality (deaths)

There were 42,844 deaths due to cancer in 2010. Of these deaths, 24,328 were male and 18,516 female.

The 5 most common causes of death from cancer in 2010 were lung (8,099), bowel (3,982), prostate (3,235), breast (2,864) and pancreas (2,434).

Cancer deaths in 2010 PNG

Cancer deaths by age 85 PNG

In 2010, the risk for males of dying from cancer before their 85th birthday was 1 in 4. For females the risk was 1 in 6.

Survival and prevalence

In 2006–2010, 5-year relative survival was 65% for males and 67% for females. That is, males newly diagnosed with cancer had a 65% chance and females a 67% chance of surviving for at least 5 years compared to the general population.

At the end of 2007, the most prevalent cancers—the number of people who had been diagnosed with cancer in the previous 26 years and were still alive—were breast (151,152, females only), melanoma of the skin (136,016), prostate (129,978), bowel (105,144) and non-Hodgkin lymphoma (30,646).

Males can also develop breast cancer; however, it is quite rare with 110 cases diagnosed in 2009. For this reason, survival and prevalence numbers for breast cancer are limited to females.

Cancer prevalence in 2007 PNG


In 2010–11, there were 880,432 cancer-related hospitalisations, 1 in 10 of all hospitalisations in that year.

The 5 cancers with the highest number of hospitalisations in 2010–11 were NMSC (95,312), prostate (35,176), bowel (29,263), breast (24,017) and non-Hodgkin lymphoma (18,997).

Cancer hospitalisations 2010-11 PNG

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