About Cancer – General

What is cancer?

Cancer is a name for a group of similar diseases. Cancers begin in cells. When damaged genes cause them to behave abnormally, the cells grow into a lump called a tumour. Tumours can be benignor malignant. Malignant tumours are cancerous. Most cancers start in an organ, called the ‘primary site’. For example, bladder cancer begins in the bladder, lung cancer begins in the lung.

How it spreads

The abnormal cells can invade and damage the tissue around them. Moving through the blood or lymphatic systems theyspreadto other parts of the body where they grow and cause more damage, and eventually death.When they travel to other organsand form new tumours, this is called ‘metastasis’.

Risk factors

A risk factor is anything associated with increasing the chance of developing cancer. Some of these are listed below. It is hard to know how much any single risk factor contributes to developing cancer. For most cancers the causes are not fully understood. Some factors place us at greater risk:

  • tobacco smoking
  • alcohol consumption
  • poor diets
  • diets high inprocessed meat or fat
  • being overweight or obese
  • physical inactivity
  • UV radiation
  • infections –like hepatitis B or C, or HPV infection
  • exposure to specific chemicals, dusts or industrial processes
  • family history and genetic susceptibility

Cancer in Australia

Cancer the second-most common cause of death in Australia after cardiovascular diseases.


In 2012 the five most common cancers were:

  • prostate (18,560)
  • bowel (15,840)
  • breast (14,680)
  • melanoma of the skin (12,510)
  • lung (11,280)

Estimated new cases in 2015 : 126,800 =   69,790 males +   57,010 females


The chance of surviving at least 5 years: (2007–11) 67%


In 2009, there were 429,083 males and 431,974 females diagnosed with cancer in the previous 28 years who 
were still alive.

A total of 861,057

Included are:

  • Breast 151,152
  • Melanoma 136,016
  • Prostate 129,978
  • Bowel 105,144
  • People living with cancer

in 2009 (diagnosed in 2005 to 2009)1 370,474

People living with breast cancer in 2009 (diagnosed in 2005 to 2009) 59,400

Males living with prostate cancer in 2009 (diagnosed in 2005 to 2009) 86,207


Estimated deaths in 2015

46,570 =  26,470 males +  20,100 females

In 2010 there were 42,844 deaths due to cancer.

  • Male: 24,328
  • Female: 18,516

The five (5) most common were:

  • Lung 8,099
  • Bowel 3,982
  • Prostate 3,235
  • Breast 2,864
  • Pancreas 2,434


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