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Cancer rates up, deaths down

An ageing population and improved screening sees rise in new cases of cancer detected.

The rate of new cancers diagnosed in Australia has surged over the past quarter-century, just as advances in detection and treatment have put cancer deaths into reverse gear.

Latest figures show there were 108,368 new cases of cancer detected across Australia in 2007, up from around 105,000 the year before.

This annual number of new cases has more than doubled between 1982 and 2007 and, after taking population growth into account, there was a 27 per cent increase in cancer incidence.

The gain is attributed to the ageing of the population but also improved screening, and these figures exclude most cases of usually simple to treat non-melanoma skin cancer.

“Population ageing is the main reason for the growth in cancer incidence, but earlier detection of cancers is also having an impact,” Professor Ian Olver, from The Cancer Council Australia, said in response to figures from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

“For example, widespread testing of men for prostate cancer with the PSA blood test has led to a parallel increase in prostate cancer incidence, although many of those diagnosed may not have developed metastatic prostate cancer.”

Prostate cancer was the most commonly diagnosed cancer in 2007, at 19,403 cases, followed by bowel cancer (14,234), breast cancer (12,670), melanoma (10,342) and then lung cancer (9703).

Despite appearing down this list, lung cancer was again the most lethal claiming 7626 lives followed by bowel cancer (4047), prostate cancer (2938) and breast cancer (2706) over the year.

Declines in mortality were seen across all of the most-common cancer types except one category - lung cancer among women.

Lung cancer deaths among women were seen to jump 56 per cent over the 26 years.

“Around 70 per cent of lung cancer deaths in women are attributed to smoking,” Olver said.
In all, just short of 40,000 Australians lost their lives to cancer in 2007 or a little over a hundred each day.

Improvements in screening, diagnosis and treatment have kept this number low, and slightly increasing, when compared to the nation’s rising cancer incidence.

Taking population growth into account, the nation’s overall cancer death rate has declined by 16 per cent from 1982 to 2007.


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