Lung cancer revealed as biggest cancer killer in Victorian women

Friday 19 January, 2018

New report reveals world’s most up-to-date cancer incidence and mortality information

New cancer data has revealed lung cancer mortality rates have overtaken those for breast cancer, making it the current leading cause of cancer death in both men and women.

The data were published today by the Victorian Cancer Registry as part of its publication, Cancer in Victoria: Statistics and Trends 2016, which contains the world’s most up-to-date cancer incidence and mortality information.

As long-term trends in lung cancer reflect tobacco use patterns from around 40 years ago, male lung cancer incidence has been decreasing since the 1980s. Rates in women appear to have reached their peak, consistent with the peak of female smoking in the mid-1970s.

Cancer Council Victoria CEO Todd Harper encouraged Victorians who smoke to get support to quit.

“We know that 80% of lung cancers can be attributed to smoking, and that about 1 in 8 cancer deaths in Australia is as a result of smoking. Quitting smoking is the best lifestyle change you can make to reduce your risk of cancer.”

Mr Harper said smoking behaviours of Victorians are directly impacting lung cancer trends.

“Whilst most types of lung cancer show declining incidence, rates of adenocarcinoma are increasing in both men and women. This has largely been attributed to the changing composition of modern cigarettes, which contain nitrosamines that predispose to adenocarcinoma.”

Lung cancer is the fifth most common cancer diagnosed in Victoria, with survival among the lowest of all cancers. Survival rates have increased steadily over the last three decades however, with five-year survival now at 18%.

Victorian Cancer Registry Director Helen Farrugia said that the report demonstrated that regional variation in lung cancer incidence rates across Victoria reflect population demographics and smoking behaviours.

“We know there is wide disparity in smoking prevalence across Australia, with the most advantaged people in the population having a 10% smoking prevalence and most disadvantaged 23%. Likewise, in major cities the smoking rate is 14% and in remote areas it is 25%. These demographic factors significantly influence lung cancer incidence rates across Victorian regions, which will continue to change with population growth, distribution and migration.”

“As well as incidence, lung cancer survival also varied across regions, being higher in Melbourne than in the rest of Victoria.”

Cancer in Victoria: Statistics and Trends 2016 also reveals:

  • The five most common cancers in Victoria are prostate, breast, bowel, lung, and melanoma, collectively accounting for 57% of all new cancers and half of all cancer deaths.
  • Low survival cancers include a wide range of common and less common cancers with challenges relating to prevention, early detection and treatment options. Cancers with five-year relative survival less than 30% include those of the pancreas, liver, lung, oesophagus, brain and mesothelioma, among others. These cancers account for nearly 20% of all cancer diagnoses and more than 40% of cancer deaths each year.
  • All cancer survival continues to improve across the state. The latest five-year cancer survival is 68%, an increase from 65% in 2005-2009.
  • In 2016, cancer deaths in Victoria were responsible for the premature loss of nearly 63,000 years of life. This is more than four times the loss compared with other major causes of death.

Mr Harper said: “Last year we lost another 11,111 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 measures, such as quitting smoking.”

“With such a large number of deaths due to smoking, and an increasing number of obesity-related cancers being diagnosed, the importance of investing in prevention is clear.”

Click here to download the complete report.