New cancer data has revealed bowel cancer is Victoria's second biggest cancer killer, taking almost as many lives as breast and prostate cancer combined in 2015.
The data was published today by the Victorian Cancer Registry as part of its publication, Cancer in Victoria: Statistics and Trends 2015, which contains the world's most up-to-date cancer incidence and mortality information.
If detected early 90% of bowel cancers can be treated successfully. In 2015, Victorians diagnosed with Stage 1 disease had a 97% five-year survival rate, decreasing to 15% for those diagnosed at Stage 4.
Cancer Council Victoria CEO Todd Harper said there is an opportunity to save thousands of lives taken by bowel cancer each year.
"Encouraging people aged over 50 to take part in the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program is a priority for us at Cancer Council Victoria because we know treatment is incredibly successful for early stage disease - it's a no brainer.
"The test is simple and can be done in the comfort of your own home, but currently only 38% of eligible Victorians take part in the free screening program. Our goal is to increase participation to 50% of the eligible Victorian population by 2021."
Bowel cancer is most common in older Victorians, with only 9% of cases in 2015 diagnosed in those aged less than 50 years.
Victorian Cancer Registry Director Helen Farrugia said that the report demonstrated a generally higher incidence of bowel cancer with increasing distance from the Melbourne metropolitan area.
"We encourage participation equity in the bowel screening program across the state, as currently the burden of bowel cancer disease is felt most in regional areas.
"Those residing in the Melbourne metropolitan region also experienced higher five-year survival (69%) following a bowel cancer diagnosis than those from the rest of Victoria (66%)."
Modifiable risk factors for bowel cancer include being overweight, having a diet high in red meat (particularly processed meats such as salami or ham), drinking alcohol and smoking.
Cancer in Victoria: Statistics and Trends 2015 also reveals:
Mr Harper said, "Last year we lost another 10,937 Victorians to cancer - an average of 30 people every day. We must continue to work tirelessly on finding new and improved ways to detect, treat and prevent cancer, while continuing to support those affected.
"Cancer survival remains high which is great news for all Victorians, but we can continue to improve these statistics thanks to prevention and early detection programs such as bowel screening."