Cancer in Australia: an overview, 2010 is a joint report by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) and the state and territory members of the Australasian Association of Cancer Registries (AACR) as a product of the National Cancer Statistics Clearing House. It provides a comprehensive picture of national statistics on cancer using a range of resources, presenting the latest available data and trends over time. As well, differences by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander status, state and territory, remoteness area and socioeconomic status are discussed.

Cancer is a major cause of illness in Australia

Excluding basal and squamous cell carcinomas of the skin, a total of 108,368 new cases of cancer (62,019 males and 46,349 females) were diagnosed in Australia in 2007. Of these, 68% were diagnosed in people aged 60 years and older.

Prostate cancer was the most common type of newly diagnosed cancer among males in 2007 (excluding basal and squamous cell carcinomas of the skin), with 19,403 cases diagnosed that year. The most commonly diagnosed cancer in females in 2007 was breast cancer, with 12,567 cases.

In 2007, the age-standardised incidence rate for all cancers combined was 485 cases per 100,000 people. This rate was markedly higher than the rate recorded for 1982 (the year in which national incidence data were first available), at 383 cases per 100,000 people. Accordingly, the incidence rate of the most commonly diagnosed cancers increased from 1982 to 2007, including the rate of melanoma of the skin; prostate cancer; bowel cancer in males; and lung cancer and breast cancer in females.

By the age of 85 years, 1 in 2 males and 1 in 3 females will have been diagnosed with cancer at some stage in their life.

Cancer is estimated to be the leading cause of the burden of disease in Australia in 2010, accounting for 19% of the total burden.

The rate of death from cancer has fallen

Cancer accounted for three of every ten deaths registered in Australia in 2007, making it one of the most common causes of death in that year. A total of 39,884 deaths from cancer occurred in 2007, an average of 109 deaths every day.

However, the age-standardised mortality rate has decreased significantly by 16% from 209 deaths per 100,000 people in 1982 to 176 deaths per 100,000 people in 2007. Decreases in the rate of death were also observed for the most common causes of cancer deaths, the exception being lung cancer in females for which the rate of death increased by 56% between 1982 and 2007 (from 15 to 24 deaths per 100,000 females).

Some Australian population groups tend to do worse than others

Between 2003 and 2007, mortality rates of cancer varied across different population groups. Indigenous Australians had higher mortality rates than non-Indigenous Australians for all cancers combined, as well as for cervical cancer and lung cancer. Furthermore, people living in Remote and very remote areas of Australia had higher mortality rates for all cancers combined, lung cancer, cervical cancer and cancer of unknown primary site, than those living in more urbanised areas. Lastly, Australians living in lower socioeconomic areas had higher mortality rates from all cancers combined, bowel cancer, lung cancer, prostate cancer, cervical cancer and cancer of unknown primary site than those living in other areas.