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Survival rates for most types of cancer are improving, according to a report released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

The report, Cancer in Australia: an overview, 2012, shows that five-year survival from all cancers combined increased from 47% in 1982-1987 to 66% in 2006-2010. Further, Australians diagnosed with cancer generally have better survival prospects compared with people living in other countries and regions.

The cancers that had the largest survival gains were prostate cancer, kidney cancer and non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

However, gains in survival have not been consistent across all cancers. Some cancers that already had low survival in 1982-1987 showed only small gains-these include mesothelioma, brain cancer, pancreatic cancer and lung cancer.

The report also shows that the number of new cancer cases diagnosed in Australia each year almost doubled between 1991 and 2009-from 66,000 to 114,000. This number is expected to rise to around 121,000 in 2012.

'This increasing trend is primarily due to rises in the number of cases of prostate cancer, breast cancer in females, bowel cancer and lung cancer, and is partly explained by the ageing and increasing size of the population,' said AIHW spokesperson Lisa McGlynn.

The most common cancers expected to be diagnosed in 2012 are prostate cancer, followed by bowel cancer, breast cancer, melanoma of the skin and lung cancer.

'One in 2 Australians will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime,' Ms McGlynn said.

Cancer accounted for about 3 in 10 deaths in Australia in 2010, making it the second most common cause of death, exceeded only by cardiovascular diseases.

'The good news is that, when looking at all cancers combined, the age-standardised mortality rate decreased from 210 per 100,000 people to 174 per 100,000 people between 1991 to 2010-a 17% decrease,' Ms McGlynn said.

The report shows that cancer outcomes differ across population groups.

For all cancers combined, Indigenous Australians experience higher cancer incidence and mortality rates.

Incidence rates and survival were lower for people living in remote areas compared with those in major cities, while mortality rates rose with increasing remoteness.

Incidence and mortality rates rose and survival from all cancers fell as a person's socioeconomic status decreased.

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, 11 December 2012

Further information: Ms Lisa McGlynn, AIHW, tel. (02) 6244 1168, mob. 0408 204 164

Full reports:

 Cancer in Australia: an overview, 2012

Cancer in Australia: in brief 2012