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Victorian researchers pinpoint our cancer risk

Sunday 30 August, 2015

Victorian men in their mid-60s have a one in six chance of developing cancer within the next decade according to statistics released by Cancer Council Victoria today.

For the first time, cancer researchers have calculated the risk of a Victorian developing cancer by a specified age, depending on their current age and gender. The report Cancer Risk 2015 includes these estimates for all cancers, as well as individual cancer types. This provides individuals and doctors with the most accurate risk assessment available.

The report, from Cancer Council's Victorian Cancer Registry, reveals that 65-year-old Victorian men have a 7% chance of developing cancer within the next five years and a 17% chance of developing cancer within the next decade.

Of the 14 cancers that researchers analysed, Victorian men aged over 50 were at greatest risk of developing prostate cancer within the next decade followed by bowel, lung, lymphoid malignancies and melanoma. Meanwhile, Victorian women aged over 50 were at greatest risk of developing breast cancer followed by bowel, lung, lymphoid malignancies and uterus cancer.

Lead author and Director of the Victorian Cancer Registry Helen Farrugia said the age-specific cancer risk estimates in the report were based on diagnostic patterns within the state but did not take into account an individual's personal risk factors for developing cancer.

"So, while the risk estimates tell us there is a 3.1 percent chance of any 45-year-old Victorian man developing lung cancer by the age of 75, for non-smoking men their actual risk would be lower than this and for smokers it would be much higher," Ms Farrugia said.

Professor John Zalcberg, Head of the Cancer Research Program at the School of Public Health and Preventive Medicine at Monash University, said it was common for people to enquire about cancer risk as they aged, as well as seek information on how to prevent cancer.

"Until now we haven't been able to calculate a person's risk of developing cancer given their current age. This report allows us to do exactly that, helping doctors put these risks into perspective," he said.

Cancer Council Victoria CEO Todd Harper said we are all at risk of developing cancer and this publication helps put that into perspective for Victorians.

"Leading a healthy lifestyle can't guarantee someone won't get cancer, but we can certainly stack the odds in our favour by avoiding cigarettes and alcohol, being SunSmart, staying active and maintaining a healthy weight as all those steps help decrease cancer risk," Mr Harper said.

The report includes top ways for Victorians to reduce their cancer risk:

  • Don't smoke - this remains the leading cause of preventable cancer deaths.
  • Limit alcohol consumption, or avoid it altogether.
  • Be SunSmart.
  • Maintain a healthy weight - an ideal waistline for men is under 94cm and for women under 80cm.
  • Eat a healthy diet – low in red and processed meats, and high in fresh fruit, vegetables and whole grains.
  • Be physically active – one hour of moderate activity or 30 minutes of vigorous exercise on most days.
  • Get checked. See your doctor if you notice any unusual changes in your body or skin, and take advantage of screening programs for breast, bowel and cervical cancers.

This year another 30,000 Victorians will be diagnosed with cancer. It remains the leading cause of death in the state accounting for almost 30 percent of deaths and more than 60,000 years of life lost prematurely.