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New report shows cancer leading cause of premature death in Australia

New research shows that cancer is causing unprecedented levels of premature mortality in Australians compared with all other causes of death, highlighting the urgent need for the whole community to do more to prevent cancer and improve patient outcomes.

A new Australian Institute of Health and Welfare Report, Australian Burden of Disease Study: Fatal burden of disease 2010, showed that cancer caused 35 per cent of the years of life lost to Australians in 2010, a significantly higher proportion than any other cause.

Director of Public Policy at Cancer Council Australia, Paul Grogan, said the main reason we are seeing more people lose their lives to cancers is that we are living longer and more of us are getting cancer in older age.

“This partly reflects positive improvements in the management of other diseases which used to cause premature death on a larger scale – which in itself is good news,” he said.

“However, the reality is that more and more Australians are being diagnosed with cancer, more and more are living longer with cancer and sadly, larger numbers of Australians are dying of cancer as well.

“It is particularly concerning that the greatest burden in years of life lost to cancer is in the 55 to 64 age group. So while Australians are living longer, cancer is causing the greatest loss of life in people who are middle-aged and should be enjoying a good quality of life.

“Australia does comparatively well in cancer outcomes, but there is still plenty more we can do to prevent and treat cancer, and to care for people with cancer and their families. These shortcomings will be magnified as cancer becomes responsible for more deaths – a trend that we see clearly today in this new data.”

Mr Grogan said a third of cancer deaths in Australia were caused by modifiable risk factors such as smoking, the combined effects of poor diet, physical inactivity and obesity, UV, alcohol and occupational exposures.

He said cancer care outcomes for patients varied depending on socioeconomic status, ethnicity, location and other factors. Moreover, survival for some cancers had improved dramatically over the past few decades while cancer types such as pancreatic, brain and lung still caused disproportionately high fatal disease burden in relation to incidence.

“This new data should be a wake-up call to all of Australia – governments, communities and individuals,” Mr Grogan said. “We need to do more to prevent cancer, support patients and their families and boost research into those cancers where survival is poor.”


Source: Cancer Council Australia