Cancer in Australia: an overview 2014 was prepared by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare with support from state and territory members of the Australasian Association of Cancer Registries. It provides comprehensive national information and statistics on cancer, including the latest available data and projections, as well as trends over time. Information by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander status, state and territory, remoteness area, life stages and socioeconomic disadvantage are also presented.

Cancer is a major cause of illness in Australia

In 2014, it is estimated that 123,920 Australians will be diagnosed with cancer (excluding basal and squamous cell carcinoma of the skin, as these cancers are not notifiable diseases in Australia). More than half (55%) of the cancer cases diagnosed in Australia are expected to be for males. The most commonly reported cancers in 2014 are expected to be prostate cancer, followed by colorectal (bowel) cancer, breast cancer in females, melanoma of the skin, and lung cancer. Between 1982 and 2014, the number of new cancer cases diagnosed more than doubled—from 47,417 to 123,920. This increase can be largely attributed to the rise in the incidence of prostate cancer, colorectal cancer, breast cancer in females and lung cancer. The increase can also be partly explained by the ageing and increasing size of the population, improved diagnoses through population health screening programs, and improvements in technologies and techniques used to identify and diagnose cancer.

Mortality rate due to cancer has fallen

In 2014, it is estimated that nearly 45,780 Australians will die from cancer. Cancer accounted for about 3 in 10 deaths in Australia. For all cancers combined, the age-standardised mortality rate is estimated to decrease by 20%, from 209 per 100,000 in 1982 to 168 per 100,000 in 2014.

Survival improved over time, but not consistent across all cancers

Five-year survival from all cancers combined increased from 46% in 1982–1986 to 67% in 2007–2011. The cancers with the largest survival gains over this time were prostate cancer, kidney cancer and non-Hodgkin lymphoma. People living in Australia who were diagnosed with cancer generally had better survival prospects compared with people living in other countries and regions who were diagnosed with cancer.

Cancer outcomes differ across population groups

Cancer outcomes differ by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander status and remoteness area. In 2008–2012, for all cancers combined, Indigenous Australians experienced higher mortality rates than non-Indigenous Australians. In 2005–2009, incidence rates were highest for those living in Inner regional areas of Australia; in 2008–2012, mortality rates were highest for those living in Very remote areas.