Cancer death rate in Australia drops 25 per cent, data shows

Rates of new cancer cases have grown in line with population over the past 20 years, but your risk of dying from cancer has dropped by 25 per cent over that time, according to the latest data from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

Between 2000 and 2023, the number of new cancer cases in Australia grew by 88 per cent, while deaths from cancer increased by 41 per cent. Both figures are roughly in line with the population growing.

But although overall cancer numbers grew, the rate at which new cancers are diagnosed only grew by eight per cent, while the rate of deaths from cancer actually decreased by 25 per cent, and by 30 per cent if measured back to 1990.

The decrease in mortality is primarily driven by lower death rates for common cancers such as lung (33 per cent decline between 2000 and 2023), colorectal (43 per cent decline), prostate (31 per cent decline), and female breast cancer (27 per cent decline), amongst others.

Cancer ‘survivability’ improves

Someone diagnosed with cancer has a roughly 30 per cent lower chance of surviving the next five years compared to someone without cancer. This is referred to as the ‘5-year relative survival rate’.

Survival rates can vary considerably between cancer types of cancer, for example cancers such as testicular and thyroid cancers have 5-year relative survival rates of over 95 per cent, but cancers like pancreatic cancer and mesothelioma have 5-year relative survival rates of less than 20 per cent.

Women were slightly more likely than men to survive five years after a cancer diagnosis (72 per cent vs 69 per cent) and survival rates for the two most common cancers in each gender were 92 per cent for females diagnosed with breast cancer and 96 per cent for males diagnosed with prostate cancer.

Although death rates have improved, cancer still accounts for around three out of every 10 deaths in Australia. In 2023, around 51,300 people died from cancer, at a rate of approximately 140 per day, with men accounting for 56 per cent of those deaths.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, what stage the cancer is at when first diagnosed has a direct impact on survivability rates, with higher rates the earlier the cancer was detected.

Stage I breast cancer in women had a survivability rate of 100 per cent (meaning the cancer will not impact life expectancy), but at Stage IV it was on 32 per cent.

Colorectal cancer at Stage I had 99 per cent survivability rate but at Stage IV it is just 13 per cent. Lung cancer detected at Stage I was 68%, while at Stage IV it dwindles to just 3.2 per cent.

Prostate cancer in males at Stage I was 100 per cent survivable but at Stage IV it was just 36%, while Australia’s national cancer melanoma is 99 per cent survivable at Stage I, but is only 26 per cent at Stage IV.

Similar outcomes with other cancers show the importance of regular screening and early detection.

Do you have any experience with cancer? When was the last time you were screened? Let us know in the comments section below.

Also read: Most older Australians living with multiple chronic illnesses

Brad Lockyer
Brad Lockyer
Brad has deep knowledge of retirement income, including Age Pension and other government entitlements, as well as health, money and lifestyle issues facing older Australians. Keen interests in current affairs, politics, sport and entertainment. Digital media professional with more than 10 years experience in the industry.


  1. I was diagnosed with stage 3 colon cancer in 2002, op + 6 months of chemo. Then in 2005,
    liver and lung metastasis. Two more ops and another 6 months of chemo. I’m now 76 and still working. Yes, it is possible to survive the Big C.

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