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This report provides highlights from the full report Cancer in Australia: an overview 2012. It is part of a series of national statistical reports on cancer produced by the AIHW and the state and territory members of the Australasian Association of Cancer Registries. It presents information on incidence, mortality, survival, prevalence, burden of disease due to cancer, hospitalisations and the national cancer screening programs.
Cancer is a major cause of illness in Australia and has a significant impact on individuals, families and the health-care system. Despite a decline in cancer mortality and an increase in survival over time, 1 in 2 Australians will develop cancer and 1 in 5 will die from it before the age of 85.
Incidence rate: the number of new cancers diagnosed per 100,000 population during a specific time period, usually 1 year.
Mortality rate: the number of deaths per 100,000 people for which the underlying cause was cancer.
Relative survival: the average survival experience. It compares the survival of people diagnosed with cancer (that is, observed survival) with that experienced by people in the general population of equivalent age and sex in the same calendar year (that is, expected survival).
Cancer is a diverse group of diseases in which some of the body's cells become defective and multiply out of control. These abnormal cells invade and damage the tissues around them, and sooner or later spread (metastasise) to other parts of the body and can cause further damage. If the spread of these tumours is not controlled, they can result in death. Not all tumours are invasive. Some are benign, which means they do not spread to other parts of the body and are rarely life-threatening.
Cancers can develop from most cell types and are distinguished from one another by the location in the body where the disease began (known as site) or by the cell type involved (known as histology).
Note: Adapted from Cancer Council image (Cancer Council Queensland 2010).
Find out more: Chapter 1 in Cancer in Australia: an overview 2012
A risk factor is any factor associated with an increased likelihood of a person developing a health disorder or health condition, such as cancer. Understanding what causes cancer is essential to successfully prevent, detect and treat the disease. For most cancers the causes are not fully understood. However, some factors that place individuals at a greater risk are well recognised and are listed below (IARC 2008).
While some risk factors cannot be changed, others—mainly those related to behaviours and lifestyle—are modifiable.
It should be noted that having a risk factor does not mean that a person will develop cancer. Many people have at least one cancer risk factor but will never get cancer, while others with this disease may have had no known risk factors.
Note: *latrogenic factors are inadvertent adverse effects or complications resulting from medical treatment or advice.
In 2012, it is estimated that 120,710 new cases of cancer will be diagnosed in Australia (excluding basal and squamous cell carcinomas of the skin). More than half (56%) of these are expected to be diagnosed in males, and nearly three-quarters (70%) will occur among those aged 60 and over.
The age-standardised incidence rate of all cancers combined is estimated to be 474 per 100,000. The overall cancer incidence rate is expected to be higher among males than females (558 and 405 per 100,000 respectively).
In 2012, the risk of being diagnosed with cancer before the age of 85 is expected to be 1 in 2 for males and 1 in 3 for females.
Source: AIHW Australian Cancer Database 2009.
Find out more: Chapter 2 in Cancer in Australia: an overview 2012
In 2012, it is estimated that the most commonly reported cancers will be:
Grouped together, these five cancers are expected to account for more than 60% of all cancers in 2012.
The likelihood of being diagnosed with cancer increases as a person gets older.
Some differences between males and females are expected. The incidence rate for all cancers combined is expected to be:
Between 1991 and 2009, the number of new cancer cases diagnosed nearly doubled—from 66,393 in 1991 to 114,137 in 2009. The increase is, in part, due to available testing and screening programs for some cancers.
The age-standardised incidence rate for all cancers combined increased by 12% from 433 per 100,000 in 1991 to 486 per 100,000 in 2009.
Between 1991 and 2009:
Cancer accounted for about 3 of every 10 deaths (30%) registered in Australia in 2010. This makes it the second most common cause of death, exceeded only by cardiovascular diseases (32% of all deaths) (ABS 2012).
In 2010, 42,844 people died from cancer. Of these, 24,328 were males (57%) and 18,516 were females (43%). The average age of death was 73 for both males and females.
The age-standardised mortality rate for all cancers combined was 174 per 100,000. It was higher among males than females (222 and 138 per 100,000 respectively).
By the age of 85, the risk of dying from cancer was 1 in 4 for males and 1 in 6 for females.
Source: AIHW National Mortality Database.
Find out more: Chapter 3 in Cancer in Australia: an overview 2012
In Australia in 2010, the most common causes of cancer death were:
Together, these five cancers represented almost half (48%) of the total deaths from cancer, with lung cancer alone accounting for 1 in every 5 deaths (19%).
Note: Mortality data for 2010 are preliminary and are subject to further revision.
The mortality rate for cancer increased as a person got older.
The likelihood of dying from cancer was similar for males and females up to the age of 50-54. After that, the mortality rates were higher and increased more steeply in males.
Between 1991 and 2010:
Between 1982-1987 and 2006-2010:
Note: All cancers include cancers coded in ICD-10 as C00-C97, D45, D46, D47.1 and D47.3, with the exception of C44 codes that indicate a basal or squamous cell carcinoma of the skin.
Source: AIHW Australian Cancer Database 2007.
Find out more: Chapter 4 in Cancer in Australia: an overview 2012
In 2006-2010, cancers with the highest 5-year relative survival were:
In 2006-2010, cancers with the lowest 5-year relative survival were:
In 2006-2010 for all cancers combined, 5-year relative survival decreased as a person got older.
When comparing the age-specific relative survival for males and females:
Note: Data pertain to cancers coded in ICD-10 as C00-C97, D45, D46, D47.1 and D47.3, with the exception of those C44 codes that indicate a basal or squamous cell carcinoma of the skin.
In the 5 years from 2004 to 2008:
In the 5 years from 2006 to 2010:
Source: AIHW Australian Cancer Database 2009, AIHW National Mortality Database.
Find out more: Chapter 6 in Cancer in Australia: an overview 2012
ABS (Australian Bureau of Statistics) 2012. Causes of Death, Australia, 2010. ABS cat. no. 3303.0. Canberra: ABS.
IARC (International Agency for Research on Cancer) 2008. World cancer report 2008. Lyon: IARC.