Cancer rates increasing, but death rates falling

Cancer incidence rates have increased over the past 26 years, while cancer death rates have fallen, according to a report released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

The report, Cancer in Australia: an overview, 2010, shows that over 108,000 new cancer cases were diagnosed in 2007 (excluding most non-melanoma skin cancers). This was an increase on the previous year, when around 105,000 new cases were diagnosed.

‘This increase can be partly explained by the ageing and increasing size of the population,’ said Chris Sturrock of the Institute’s Cancer and Screening Unit.

‘The incidence rate for cancer rose by 27% between 1982 and 2007, from 383 cases per 100,000 to 485 cases per 100,000 people,’ she said.

Cancer is more common in older Australians, with 68%of cancers diagnosed in people aged 60 years and over.

In 2007, the most common cancer in men was prostate cancer, and in women it was breast cancer.

‘By the age of 85 years, 1 in 2 men and 1 in 3 women will have been diagnosed with cancer at some stage in their lives,’ Ms Sturrock said.

While cancer incidence rates are increasing, cancer death rates are falling.

The overall cancer death rate in Australia fell by 16% between 1982 and 2007, from 209 to 176 deaths per 100,000 people.

Falls in death rates were observed for all of the most common types of cancer, except lung cancer in women, for which the death rate rose by 56% between 1982 and 2007.

Even though cancer death rates are falling, cancer still accounted for 3 in every 10 deaths in Australia in 2007.

There were nearly 40,000 deaths due to cancer in 2007, or 109 deaths every day.

In addition, some cancers have poorer outcomes for some population groups.

‘For example, Indigenous Australians have higher death rates than non-Indigenous Australians for cervical cancer, lung cancer, and all cancers combined,’ Ms Sturrock said.

The full report, as well as a summary report, Cancer in Australia: in brief, is available on the AIHW website (www.aihw.gov.au).

Canberra, 14 December 2010

Further information: Ms Christine Sturrock, AIHW, tel. (02) 6244 1118, mob. 0407 915 851

For media copies of the report: Publications Officer 02 6244 1032