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Cancer survival rates are improving in Australia, according to a report released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

The report, Cancer survival and prevalence in Australia: period estimates from 1982 to 2010, shows that 5-year survival from all cancers increased from 47% to 66% in the period 1982-1987 to 2006-2010.

'While overall cancer survival is improving in Australia, variations still exist between types of cancer,' said AIHW spokesperson Anne Bech.

The cancers with the largest survival gains between 1982-1987 and 2006-2010 were kidney cancer, non-Hodgkin lymphoma and prostate cancer.

While 5-year survival from prostate cancer increased considerably, from 58% in the period 1982-1987 to 92% in 2006-2010, explaining this trend is somewhat difficult, with complex issues around early detection using PSA testing.

Four cancers did not show any significant changes in survival over this time: cancer of the lip, cancer of the larynx, cancer of the brain and chronic lymphocytic leukaemia.

'Between 2006 and 2010, the cancers with the highest survival were testicular cancer, lip cancer, prostate cancer, thyroid cancer, and melanoma of the skin,' Ms Bech said. All of these cancers had a 5-year survival of 90% or more.

'On the other hand, pancreatic cancer and mesothelioma had the lowest survival- 5-year survival for these cancers was less than 10%.'

Women generally had slightly higher survival rates than men, with 5-year survival for all cancers equalling 67% for females compared with 65% for males.

Younger people generally had higher survival than older people.

'Cancer survival also varied by population group-for all cancers combined survival was slightly lower for people living in remote and regional areas compared to those in major cities. Survival from all cancers combined was lower for those with greater socioeconomic disadvantage,' Ms Bech said.

The report also shows that for people with cancer who had survived 5 years past their diagnosis, survival prospects were very positive-more than 90%  for the next five years (for all cancers combined).

Almost 775,000 Australians have a history of cancer (3.6% of the population), including 1 in 5 Australians aged over 80.

The AIHW is a major national agency set up by the Australian Government to provide reliable, regular and relevant information and statistics on Australia's health and welfare.

Canberra, 18 September 2012

Further information: Ms Anne Bech, AIHW, ph. 02 6244 1178 mob. 0407 915 851

Full publication: Cancer survival and prevalence in Australia: period estimates from 1982 to 2010