More people get cancer, yet fewer die
World Health Matters – Australia – by Gary Finnegan – Over the past quarter century in Australia, cancer incidence rates have increased while deaths from cancer have steadily decreased. However, Indigenous Australians have lower cancer rates – and higher death rates – than the national average.
The news, contained in a study by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare on the burden of cancer which was published in the Asia-Pacific Journal of Clinical Oncology, offers an up-to-date snapshot of disease trends over a 25-year period.
Compared with any other disease group, cancer has the greatest overall impact on Australians’ health, with one in two Australians developing cancer and one in five dying from it before the age of 85.
The research looks at trends from 1982 to 2007 during which time there was a total of 108,368 new cases of cancer (excluding basal and squamous cell carcinoma of the skin) and 39,884 deaths from cancer in Australia.
Men were most often diagnosed with prostate cancer, while women were most often diagnosed with breast cancer. Lung cancer was by far the most common cause of cancer death in both males and females.
Investigators found that the number of new cancer cases diagnosed each year increased from 1982 to 2007 for both males and females, which can be explained by the ageing and increasing size of the population.
In females, the overall cancer incidence rate rose from 1982 through the early 1990s, after which the rate remained relatively stable. In males, the overall cancer incidence rate rose from 1982 to 1994, followed by a decline in rates until the late 1990s, when rates began to rise again.
From 1982 to 2007, cancer death rates have decreased steadily for both sexes, so that the five-year survival rates for many cancers have improved markedly since the 1980s.
The report uncovered certain disparities in cancer incidence and death rates in recent years. Most notably, the overall incidence rate of cancer for Indigenous Australians was lower than that for non-indigenous Australians, while the overall death rate from cancer was higher.
More diagnoses at advanced stages, less uptake of cancer treatments, and a greater number of other illnesses may contribute to the higher death rates in Indigenous Australians, according to the authors.