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Cancer survival improves, but diagnoses also increase

SURVIVAL rates for most types of cancer are continuing to improve, but the number of people diagnosed with the dreaded disease has increased dramatically.

A report released by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare on Tuesday showed five-year survival from all cancers combined increased from 47% in 1982-1987 to 66% in 2006-2010.

Further, Australians diagnosed with cancer generally have better survival prospects compared with people living in other countries.

The cancers that had the largest survival gains were prostate cancer, kidney cancer and non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

But gains in survival were not consistent across all cancers, with some that already had low survival in 1982-1987 showing only small gains. These included mesothelioma, brain, pancreatic and lung cancers.

The number of new cancer cases diagnosed in Australia each year almost doubled between 1991 and 2009, from 66,000 to 114,000. This number is expected to rise to around 121,000 this year.

AIHW spokeswoman Lisa McGlynn said this trend could be attributed to a number of factors.

"This increasing trend is primarily due to rises in the number of cases of prostate cancer, breast cancer in females, bowel cancer and lung cancer, and is partly explained by the aging and increasing size of the population," Ms McGlynn said.

The most common cancers expected to be diagnosed in 2012 are prostate cancer, followed by bowel cancer, breast cancer, melanoma of the skin and lung cancer.

Ms McGlynn said one in two Australians would be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime, with the disease accounting for about three in 10 deaths in Australia in 2010.

In fact it was the second most common cause of death behind cardiovascular diseases.

The report showed cancer outcomes differed across population groups.

Incidence rates and survival were lower for people living in remote areas compared with those in major cities, while mortality rates rose with increasing remoteness.

The incidence rate for all cancers combined was highest in Queensland (516 per 100,000) and lowest in the Northern Territory (442 per 100,000) from 2004-2008.

Topics:  australian institute of health and welfare cancer survival



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