Image showing colorful ribbons for different cancers

1.4 million Australians will die of cancer in the next 25 years

Long-term projections of cancer incidence and mortality estimate the future burden of cancer in a population. They can be of great use in informing health service planning and resource management. A new study from the Daffodil Centre, a joint venture between the Cancer Council NSW and the University of Sydneyaimed at estimating incidence and mortality rates and the number of new cases and deaths up to the year 2044 for all cancers combined in Australia.

The study shows that 1.45 million Australians will die of cancer in the next 25 years unless governments act, i.e. from 2020 to 2044, unless there is major investments in prevention, early detection and patient care.

It is the largest and most comprehensive study of its kind that offers a blueprint for how cancer should be controlled and treated in the future. It also helps prioritize future cancer control policies and research based on where the greatest burden is expected.

Between 2020 and 2044, more than 4.56 million additional cancer cases are expected to be diagnosed. Despite the fact that 1.45 million Australians are at risk of dying by 2044, the total death rate is expected to fall by around 20% – a smaller drop than in the previous 25 years (30%).

Director of the Daffodil Center and chair of the Cancer Council’s Cancer Screening and Immunization Committee, Professor Karen Canfell, said: “The study has highlighted the magnitude of the expected cancer burden in Australia and how trends in expected future numbers of cases and deaths reflect successes, opportunities and future priorities.”

“Each of these 4.56 million people who could develop cancer in the future is a valued member of our community. Research is needed to support breakthroughs in prevention, treatment and care. Additional investments are also needed to increase access to the most effective existing approaches, such as national screening programs.

Lung cancer (43% for men and 31% for women) and melanoma are the two most frequent malignancies for which mortality rates are expected to drop considerably (49% for men and 28% for women) . Some declines will be primarily due to well-established prevention strategies, such as smoking cessation and sun protection, and improved treatments for these cancers.

Professor Karen Canfell, Director of the Daffodil Centre, said: “We could significantly improve these outcomes…but only if there is a commitment to invest in doing more of what we know works to prevent, detect and treat cancer, and fund more potentially life-saving cancer research. “

“Mortality rates are expected to fall, at varying rates, for most cancers, with the exception of a few cancers which are expected to be relatively stable or increase. While this projected decline in overall cancer death rates is positive, we know that a 20% decline over the next 25 years is simply not enough.

“We could dramatically improve those outcomes, potentially saving hundreds of thousands of lives of the 1.45 million expected to be lost – but only if there is a commitment to invest in doing more of what we know works to prevent, detect and treat cancer, and fund more cancer research that can save lives.

CEO of Cancer Council Australia, Professor Tanya Buchanan, Noted this now is the time for governments to act.

“Australia is facing an unprecedented growth in new cases of cancer, representing millions of people who will need treatment and care. The government must act now to ensure Australia improves this image in the community at over the next 25 years.

Journal reference:

  1. Qingwei Luo et al. Cancer incidence and mortality in Australia from 2020 to 2044 and exploratory analysis of the potential effect of treatment delays during the COVID-19 pandemic: a statistical modeling study. DO I: 10.1016/S2468-2667(22)00090-1

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