Cancer – Statistics

General Health

Australia has one of the highest rates of life expectancy in the world and most people consider themselves to be in good health. However, not all of us are as healthy as we could be.

Diseases such as cancer, heart disease and diabetes are the leading cause of sickness and death in Australia. Two-thirds (2/3) of disease is due to one of the top-5 groups: cancer, cardiovascular disease, substance abuse, musculo-skeletal conditions and injuries.

Our health is also not the same for everyone.

Due to factors such as disability, on average, experience significantly poorer health than those without disability. Nearly 1 in 5 Australians—that’s about 4.3 million people—have disability, and around 1 in 3 of people with disability have severe or profound limitation.

In cancer statistics, the key measures are:

  1. Incidence. How often is cancer occurring;
  2. Mortality. How many people have died;
  3. Prevalence (or Survival). How many have been diagnosed and are still alive.

Note: All data courtesy of Australian Institute of Health and Welfare

Whether you are looking on the internet for the causes, symptoms, diagnosis, treatment, or statistics on cancer, make sure you only use reliable, evidence-based sources.


 Incidence (Occurrence)

Cancer is the second-most common cause of death in Australia after heart disease.

In 2013, there were 124,465 new cases of cancer in Australia (68,936 males and 55,529 females). In 2018 it’s estimated 138,321 new cases of cancer will be diagnosed.

It is also estimated that in 2017, the chance of being diagnosed with cancer by your 85th birthday will be 1 in 2.

Between 1982 and 2013, the number of new cases of cancer increased from 47,440 to 124,465. (this also reflects other factors, such as the increase in Australia’s population over that time).

In the same period, incidence increased from 383 cases per 100,000 persons to 483 cases per 100,000 persons – an increase of 26% in 31 years.

Estimate of  new cancer cases diagnosed in 2018:

 74,644 males + 63,676 females = 138,321

Estimate: Most common cancers diagnosed in 2017
Cancer type New cases 2017 % of all new cancers 2017
Breast (female only) 17,586 28.4
Colorectal (bowel) 16,682 12.4
Prostate (male only) 16,665 23.1
Melanoma 13,941 10.4
Lung 12,434 9.3

AIHW incidence


Mortality – Deaths

In 2014, there were 44,171 deaths from cancer. It is estimated this will increase to 48,586 deaths in 2018.

In 2017, the chance of someone dying from cancer by their 85th birthday is 1 in 5.

Between 1968 and 2014, the number of deaths from cancer increased from 17,032 to 44,171.

In the same period however, the mortality rate decreased from 199 deaths per 100,000 persons to 162 deaths per 100,000 persons. This is a decrease in 18.6% over the period.

 Estimated number of deaths from cancer in 2018

  27,552 males + 21,034 females = 48,586

 Estimate: Top-5 most common cancers deaths (2017)

Cancer type Number of deaths % of all
Lung 9,021 18.9
Colorectal (bowel) 4,114 8.6
Prostate (males) 3,452 12.7
Breast (females) 3,087 14.9
Pancreatic 2,915 6.1

Source: AIHW

aihw deaths causes


Between 2010 and 2014, the mortality rate for all cancers was highest in the Northern Territory.

aihw deaths states

Prevalence (Survival)

In 2009–2013, individuals diagnosed with cancer had a 68% chance of living for 5 years or more.

Between 1984–1988 and 2009–2013, 5-year survival rate improved from 48% to 68%.

Chance of surviving at least 5 years (2009–2013) – 68%

In 2012, the number of people living with cancer diagnosed in 2008-2012 = 410,530

In 2012, the number of people living with cancers diagnosed after 1982 = 994,605

Of the 10 most common cancers, the 5-year survival was:

  • highest for prostate cancer, thyroid cancer and melanoma (skin);
  • lowest for lung cancer and pancreatic cancer.

AIHW 5year survival  Between 1984–1988 and 2009–2013, survival improved for most cancer types.

However this change was not the same over time or by type of cancer.

Some cancers, such as prostate, non-Hodgkin lymphoma and breast cancer showed significant improvements while others, such as brain, lung and pancreatic cancer showed little change.



  1. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) 2017. Australian Cancer Incidence and Mortality (ACIM)
  2. AIHW 2017. Cancer in Australia 2017. Cancer series no. 101. Canberra


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