Cancer rates rise, but so do chances of survival

THE number of Australians being diagnosed with cancer has almost doubled over the past two decades, but sufferers are increasingly likely to beat the disease.

An Australian Institute of Health and Welfare report to be released on Tuesday shows the number of new cancer cases grew from 66,000 in 1991 to 114,000 in 2009. About 121,000 Australians are expected to be diagnosed with cancer this year - 56 per cent of these cases are expected to be in males.

Prostate cancer is expected to be the most commonly reported cancer this year, followed by bowel cancer, breast cancer, melanoma of the skin and lung cancer.

A spokeswoman for the institute, Lisa McGlynn, said the increase in diagnoses was partly explained by the ageing and increasing size of the population.

But the report said the age-standardised incidence rate of all cancers increased by 12 per cent over this period, suggesting other factors had contributed to the increase. It said wider availability of testing and screening had played a role.

Between the ages of 30 and 54, women were more likely to be diagnosed with cancer than men.

Above the age of 55, men were more likely to be diagnosed than women.

Among men, rates of prostate cancer and melanoma of the skin increased, while lung and bowel cancers decreased.

Among women, rates of melanoma of the skin and lung cancer rose, while rates of cervical and ovarian cancers fell.

The rise in incidence was accompanied by significant improvements in survival rates.

''The good news is that, when looking at all cancers combined, the age-standardised mortality rate decreased from 210 per 100,000 people to 174 per 100,000 people between 1991 and 2010 - a 17 per cent increase,'' Ms McGlynn said.

Five-year survival rates rose from 47 per cent in 1982-1987 to 66 per cent in 2006-2010.

The largest gains in survival rates were made in prostate cancer, kidney cancer and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. But improvements in survival rates were more modest in mesothelioma, brain cancer, pancreatic cancer and lung cancer.

By the age of 85, the risk of dying from cancer was one in four for men and one in six for women.

Cancer accounted for about 3 in 10 deaths in Australia in 2010, making it the second most common cause of death after cardiovascular diseases. One in two Australians will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime.

Indigenous people were significantly more likely to be diagnosed with cancer and to die from the disease than the general population. Cancer incidence and mortality rates were higher for people in remote areas than those in cities, and rose as a person's socioeconomic status decreased.

The story Cancer rates rise, but so do chances of survival first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.

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