Diagnosed cases rise, but survival rates for most cancers improve.
A government report shows that the number of cancer cases diagnosed in 2019 is expected to be three times that of 1982, but survival rates are improving for most, but not all types.
An Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) report, Cancer in Australia 2019, shows that 145,000 new cases of cancer are expected to be diagnosed in 2019 compared with 47,500 in 1982.
AIHW spokesperson Justin Harvey said that the trend was primarily due to rises in the number of cases of prostate cancer, breast cancer, bowel cancer and melanoma, and was partly explained by ageing and the increasing size of the population.
The report also shows that five-year survival rates from all cancers combined had improved from 50 per cent during 1986–1990 to 69 per cent during 2011–2015.
“Changes in survival rates over time varied by cancer type, with the largest survival improvements seen in prostate cancer, kidney cancer, non-Hodgkin lymphoma and multiple myeloma,” Mr Harvey said.
Over the same period (1986–1990 to 2011–2015), survival rates for patients with cancer of the larynx, lip, mesothelioma, brain and other digestive organs showed no significant change. And survival rates for those suffering from bladder cancer had decreased.
For the first time, national data are available on the stage at which cancer was diagnosed for the five most common cancers in 2011 (prostate, breast, bowel and lung cancer and melanoma). This was due to collaboration between the AIHW, all state and territory population-based cancer registries and Cancer Australia.
Analysis of this new data found that five-year survival rates were higher for cancers diagnosed at earlier stages (stages one and two). Bowel cancers, breast cancers, melanomas and prostate cancers diagnosed in 2011 all had close to 100 per cent five-year relative survival when diagnosed at stage one.
At stage four, the survival rates were 36 per cent for prostate cancer, 32 per cent for breast cancer, 26 per cent for melanoma and 13 per cent for bowel cancer. While lung cancer had comparatively low five-year survival at stage one (68 per cent), it was significantly higher than the three per cent five-year relative survival rate for lung cancer diagnosed at stage four.
While survival rates continue to improve, the report shows that cancer remains a major cause of death in Australia.
“In fact, when we consider all types of cancer together, we see that they are responsible for more deaths than any other group of diseases, accounting for three in every 10 deaths in 2016,” Mr Harvey said.
Lung cancer is expected to be the leading cause of cancer death in 2019, followed by colorectal cancer, prostate cancer, breast cancer and pancreatic cancer.
“These five cancers are expected to account for around half (48 per cent) of all deaths from cancer in 2019, with lung cancer alone expected to account for nearly one in five (18 per cent) of cancer deaths,’ Mr Harvey said.
“More males than females are expected to die from cancer in 2019, with 56 per cent of cancer-related deaths expected to occur in males.”
The report also looked at how cancer outcomes differ across population groups.
For all cancers combined, Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders experienced lower five-year survival rates than non-Indigenous Australians.
A similar pattern was seen for people living in very remote areas, which recorded lower five-year survival rates and higher death rates.
Mr Harvey said that while death and survival rates varied among different groups, people diagnosed with cancer in Australia generally had more positive outcomes when the data was considered in an international context.
“The data suggest Australia has among the world’s best cancer survival rates, with a relatively low ratio of deaths to the number of cases diagnosed in the Australia/New Zealand region,” he said.
The United States and most areas of Europe also recorded positive results above the global average.
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