Cancer in Australia 2017 is the eighteenth in a series that provides a comprehensive national overview on cancer, including the latest available data and projections, and trends over time.

Cancer is a major cause of illness in Australia

In 2017, it is estimated that 134,174 new cases of cancer (excluding basal and squamous cell carcinoma of the skin) will be diagnosed in Australia, an average of 367 diagnoses each day. It is expected that more than half (54%) of these diagnosed cases will be for males and 71% for those aged 60 and over. The age-standardised rate of new cancer cases increased from 383 per 100,000 persons in 1982 to a peak of 504 per 100,000 in 2008, before an expected decrease to 470 per 100,000 in 2017. The decrease has mainly been observed in males and is strongly influenced by changes in the incidence rate of prostate cancer.

In 2017, breast cancer in females is expected to be the most common cancer in Australia, followed by colorectal (bowel) cancer, prostate cancer and melanoma of the skin.

Mortality rate due to cancer continues to fall

In 2014, cancer accounted for about 3 of every 10 deaths registered in Australia. In 2017, it is estimated that 47,753 people will die from cancer in Australia, an average of 131 deaths each day. It is expected that more than half (57%) of these deaths will be in males and 87% among people aged 60 and over. Males are estimated to have a higher age-standardised mortality rate than females (200 compared with 129 per 100,000). It is estimated that the age-standardised mortality rate from all cancers combined will decrease from 209 per 100,000 in 1982 to 161 per 100,000 in 2017.

In 2017, lung cancer is expected to be the leading cause of cancer death, followed by colorectal cancer, prostate cancer, breast cancer in females and pancreatic cancer.

Survival improves, but not for all cancers

Five-year relative survival from all cancers combined increased from 48% in 1984–1988 to 68% in 2009–2013. Cancers that had the largest increase in survival were prostate cancer, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, kidney cancer and multiple myeloma. Pancreatic cancer and lung cancer showed only small improvements; bladder cancer and cancer of the larynx had a decrease in survival; and lip cancer and mesothelioma had no change.

The report notes that, according to World Health Organization comparisons, people living in Australia generally had better cancer survival than those living in other countries and regions.

Cancer is the leading cause of disease burden

In 2011, cancer was the leading cause of disease burden in Australia. Australians lost 833,250 disability-adjusted life years (DALY) due to premature death from cancer or from living with cancer (19% of total DALY). Lung cancer was associated with the highest proportion of the cancer burden, followed by colorectal cancer, breast cancer, prostate cancer and pancreatic cancer.