This report presents projections of cancer incidence in Australia for 2011 to 2020. The information is important for health service planning and resource allocation in the future. The projections are presented for males and females at the national level for all cancers combined, as well as the most commonly diagnosed cancers.

It is important to note that projections are not intended to function as exact forecasts, but to give an indication of what might be expected if the stated assumptions were to apply over the projected time frame.

Overall picture

The number of cases of cancer diagnosed in Australia is projected to rise over the next decade for both males and females and is expected to reach about 150,000 in 2020—an increase of almost 40% from 2007. Increases in the number of cases diagnosed are due primarily to the ageing and increasing population and are expected to be most evident in older populations.

Cancer incidence in males is highly influenced by prostate cancer, which accounts for about 30% of all cases. Assuming incidence of prostate cancer stabilises in the future, it is projected that the overall age-standardised rate of cancer in males will fall from 595 to about 568 cases per 100,000 males between 2007 and 2020. With the anticipated changes to the population, this equates to about 85,000 new cases expected to be diagnosed in 2020. Conversely, the overall age-standardised rate of cancer incidence in females is projected to rise from 394 to about 408 cases per 100,000 females between 2007 and 2020, which equates to about 65,000 new cases expected to be diagnosed in 2020.

While the total number of cases diagnosed is expected to rise for each of the cancers analysed in this report, changes in underlying incidence rates vary depending on existing trends for each cancer type. Table 1 presents an overview of the expected changes for each cancer type.

Which cancers will present the biggest burden in 2020?

For males, prostate cancer is expected to remain the most common cancer diagnosed in 2020 (25,300 cases), followed by bowel cancer and melanoma of the skin (about 10,800 cases each) and lung cancer (7,500 cases). For females, breast cancer is projected to continue to be the most common cancer diagnosed in 2020 (17,200 cases), followed by bowel cancer (9,200), melanoma (6,800) and lung cancer (6,100).

Which cancers are on the rise?

Age-standardised rates for liver cancer are projected to increase by 38% from 2007 to 2020 in males and 78% in females, while thyroid cancer rates are projected to increase by 33% in males and 62% in females. Increases are also expected in rates for melanoma (30% males; 18% females), testicular cancer (25%) and lung cancer in females (16%).

Which cancers are decreasing?

Age-standardised rates of stomach cancer are expected to fall by 25% from 2007 to 2020 for males and 20% for females. Additionally, bladder (19%), lung (15%) and pancreatic (14%) cancer rates for males are also projected to fall.