Cancer rates to remain stable but numbers to increase

The age-standardised incidence rate of cancer is projected to remain stable to 2011, according to a report released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

The report by the AIHW, Cancer incidence projections, Australia 2002 to 2011, commissioned by the National Cancer Strategies Group to support planning of cancer services, has found that the male rate is expected to decrease by 1% from 2001 to 2011, and the female rate is expected to increase by 2%.

'For most cancers, incidence rates are projected to remain relatively stable, but as the highest incidence rates occur in the older age groups, the expected ageing of the Australian population will lead to large increases in the number of new cases of cancer,' says AIHW report author Ian McDermid.

'Overall, the number of new cases of cancers in Australia is projected to increase by 31% from 88,398 in 2001 to around 115,400 in 2011.'

The largest projected increases are for the most common cancers; prostate cancer in men and breast cancer in women.

'The good news is that incidence rates for many cancers are no longer increasing. This can be attributed partly to the success of anti-smoking and other prevention campaigns and partly to the early detection and treatment of pre-cancerous conditions,' says Mr McDermid.

'These projections are based on historical incidence rates, which reflect the rapid improvements in prevention, detection and treatment over the last 20 years.

'If the rate of improvement accelerates rather than simply continues, then we may actually see a lower number of new cases than these current projections indicate.'

The contrast between the slightly declining trend in incidence rates for men and the increasing trend for women is even greater for lung cancer and other smoking-related cancers.

The difference can be attributed to historical smoking rates, which for men peaked around 1945 when nearly three-quarters of men smoked. Lung cancer incidence rates for men peaked in the early 1980s and have since been declining.

Smoking rates for women peaked in the mid 1970s, when almost a third of women smoked.

For women the number of new cases of lung cancer is projected to increase by 38% from 2,891 in 2001 to around 4,000 in 2011.

For men the projected increase is 17% from 5,384 in 2001 to around 6,300 in 2011.

The report has some very good news for women though. Cervical cancer is the only cancer where the number of new cases is projected to decrease, from 735 in 2001 to around 450 in 2011.

25 August 2005

Further information: Ian McDermid, AIHW tel. 02 6244 1230 or 0407 915 851, or Prof Alan Coates, tel. 02 9036 3112 or 0438 226 237

For media copies of the report: Publications Officer, AIHW, tel 02 6244 1032.