This is the second national report to present comprehensive national statistics on cancer in adolescents and young adults aged 15–24 (also referred to as young Australians in this report). It provides an overview of cancers in young Australians, as well as key summary measures, including incidence, treatment, survival, prevalence, mortality, and disease burden. It also includes a spotlight section focusing on second cancers in young Australians.

Cancers in young Australians are rare, but have a large impact

In 2010–2014, 4,843 new cases of cancer (excluding basal and squamous cell carcinoma of the skin) were diagnosed in young Australians—an average of 2–3 cases per day.

In 2011–2015, cancer accounted for 8.8% of all deaths of young Australians. In 2011, cancer was the 7th leading cause of overall disease burden in young people, and the 2nd leading cause of fatal burden. Young Australians lost 6,850 disability-adjusted life years from cancer, with most of the burden due to dying prematurely (94%).

Melanoma was the most common cancer, and brain cancer was the leading cause of cancer mortality

In 2010–2014, melanoma was the most commonly diagnosed cancer in young Australians, accounting for 15% of all cancers diagnosed. But age-standardised incidence rates for melanoma fell from 96 new cases per 1 million young Australians in 1985–1989 to 44 new cases per 1 million in 2010–2014.

In 2011–2015, brain cancer was the leading cause of cancer mortality in young Australians, accounting for 18% of all cancer deaths. But age-standardised mortality rates from brain cancer fell from 7.6 deaths per 1 million young Australians in 1981–1985 to 5.8 deaths per 1 million in 2011–2015.

Cancer survival is high

In 2010–2014, young Australians diagnosed with cancer had, on average, an 89% chance of surviving for 5 years. Relative survival from all cancers combined for young Australians rose from 80% in 1985–1989 to 89% in 2010–2014, though changes in 5-year relative survival varied between cancer types.

Young cancer survivors are at an increased risk of developing a second cancer

In 1982–2014, 725 second cancers were diagnosed in those who had their first cancer diagnosed when aged 15–24, representing about 3% of all young cancer survivors.

For cancer survivors who had been diagnosed as an adolescent or young adult, the risk of developing a second cancer was 1.9 times as high as for the general population (2.2 times for males; 1.8 times for females).

The majority of second cancers had an initial diagnosis of Hodgkin lymphoma, followed by melanoma, gonadal germ cell cancer, and non-Hodgkin lymphoma.