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Cancer mortality to decline

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The number of people dying from cancer is projected to grow, but experts predict overall cancer mortality rates will decline as the medical profession gets better at detecting and treating the life-threatening illness and dangerous behaviours like smoking and heavy drinking decline.

In an upbeat assessment of the outlook for one of the nation’s most common killers, the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) has used past trends in cancer deaths and mortality rates to develop projections for the next 10 years.

The Institute said that the mortality rate for all cancers combined has generally decreased over time, from 199 deaths per 100,000 in 1968 to 166 per 100,000 in 2013. AIHW said that the overall decrease is influenced by changes in both total cancer incidence and total cancer survival.

The report did not go into reasons for the decline, but initiatives including cancer screening programs, advances in diagnosis and treatment, and changes in diet and lifestyle, including a big decline in the prevalence of smoking and heavy drinking are considered to have made an important contribution.

Though cancer is a diverse group of diseases, each with its own specific risk factors, progression, treatment and prognosis, the Institute said the data pointed to a decreasing trend in cancer mortality overall.

The AIHW has projected that if current trends continue, by the middle of next decade the male mortality rate from all cancers combined will decline from 208 to 180 per 100,000 males. Nonetheless, because of population growth, the number of men dying from cancer will increase, from 25,643 I 2014, to a projected 31,555 deaths in 2025.

For women, the mortality rate from all cancers will decline from 133 to 120 deaths per 100,000 over the same period, and the AIHW predicts 24,159 women will die from cancer in 2025 – up from 19,644 in 2014, due to population growth.

The AIHW report can be found at http://www.aihw.gov.au/cancer/mortality-trends-projections/

Kirsty Waterford