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Cancer death rate falling, predicted to keep dropping

Australia's cancer death rates are decreasing and the trend is predicted to continue over the next decade.

But cancer is still the second most common cause of death in Australia after heart disease, with 46,470 people predicted to die from it in 2015 and 126,800 others to be newly diagnosed.

The death rate from all cancers combined fell from 199 per 100,000 people in 1968 to 167 per 100,000 in 2012, a new Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) report states.

The downward trend is predicted to continue between 2013 and 2025, from an estimated 214 to 183 deaths per 100,000 males, and from 135 to 120 deaths per 100,000 females.

But the number of actual cancer deaths is predicted to rise, due to the ageing and increasing size of the population.

Between 2013 and 2025, the number is predicted to increase from 25,580 to 32,010 deaths among males, and from 19,450 to 24,250 deaths among females.

Estimating cancer mortality in the future Australian population is important to help plan services, said AIHW spokesperson Justin Harvey said. "However, many other factors may affect cancer-related deaths in the future, some of which cannot yet be taken into account when preparing these estimates," Harvey said. "For example, changes in diagnostic practices may lead to unexpected shifts in incidence and survival rates.

"Different management and treatment options, as well as changes in underlying risk factors in the population, also have the potential to alter future death rates."

Cancer in Australia by the numbers

In 2009:

  • males had a 1 in 2 chance of being diagnosed with cancer before they turned 85
  • males' most common types of cancer diagnoses were prostate (1 in 5); bowel (1 in 10), lung (1 in 13) and skin (1 in 14)
  • females had a 1 in 3 chance of being diagnosed with cancer before they turned 85
  • females' most common types of cancer diagnoses were breast (1 in 8); bowel (1 in 15), lung (1 in 22) and skin (1 in 23)
  • In 2011, cancer accounted for about 30 per cent of deaths in Australia
  • 2006–2010, the chance of newly diagnosed people surviving five years was 65 per cent for males and 67 per cent for females
  • At the end of 2007, 381,164 males and 393,510 females diagnosed with cancer in the previous 26 years were still alive.

Click below to hear from Paul Grogan, director of public policy at Cancer Council Australia.

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