While survival rates for most types of cancer are improving, an alarming new study has found that the number of people diagnosed with cancer in Australia has tripled since the early 1980s.
Data released on Thursday by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) as part of the Cancer in Australia 2019 report shows the number of new cases of cancer diagnosed in Australia this year is expected to be three times of that in 1982. Cases will jump to 145,000 compared to 47,500 in the ‘80s.
The data shows there have been increases in the number of cases of prostate cancer, breast cancer, bowel cancer and melanoma. This is partly the result of the ageing population and the increasing size of Australia’s population.
While the statistics may seem scary, the report also shows that the five-year survival rates from all cancers combined improved from 50 per cent between 1986 and 1990 to 69 per cent between 2011 and 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,” AIHW spokesperson Justin Harvey said in a statement.
Survival rates for cancer of the larynx, lip cancer, mesothelioma, brain cancer and cancer of other digestive organs showed no significant change over the same period and survival rates for bladder cancer have decreased.
The research also explains that the five-year survival rates are higher for cancers diagnosed at earlier stages. In fact, bowel cancer, breast cancer, melanoma and prostate cancer diagnosed in 2011 had close to 100 per cent survival rate when cancer was diagnosed at stage one.
When diagnosed at stage four, survival rates decreased to 36 per cent for prostate cancer, 32 per cent for breast cancer, 26 per cent for melanoma and 13 per cent for bowel cancer. Lung cancer’s five-year survival rate when diagnosed at stage one was 68 per cent, but decreased to less than 3 per cent when diagnosed at stage four.
Despite cancer survival rates improving, 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,” Harvey explained.
Experts predict lung cancer will be the leading cause of cancer death this year, followed by colorectal cancer, prostate cancer, breast cancer and pancreatic cancer. These cancers will account for 48 per cent of all cancer deaths in 2019, while lung cancer causing 18 per cent of all cancer deaths.
Men are also more likely to die from cancer this year and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people experience lower five-year survival rates than non-Indigenous Australians. It is a similar story for people living in remote areas, with higher death rates and lower five-year survival rates recorded in these areas.
The report also shows that overall, people diagnosed with cancer in Australia have positive outcomes compared to 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,” Harvey said.
North America and most European areas also recorded positive results above the global average.
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