Cancer stats best in BC but preventable cancers provide tremendous opportunity to save lives

09 May 2012

Vancouver -

Generally, cancer incidence and mortality rates continue to be the lowest in British Columbia. BC also reports the lowest incidence for lung cancer and colorectal cancer in Canada. “We think this is likely to be linked to the lowest smoking rates in Canada in BC and the healthy lifestyle in the province,” said Kathryn Seely, Director of Public Issues, BC and Yukon.

“Obviously we find these stats very encouraging, but preventable cancers—like melanoma—are still priorities. One-hundred and fifty people die from melanoma each year in BC and many of these deaths could be prevented if we are successful with our campaigns to stop people from overexposing themselves to UV radiation from the sun and tanning beds,” she added.


According to 2012 statistics, the incidence rates for melanoma are increasing across Canada. There will be 910 new cases of melanoma diagnosed in BC this year. 

Melanoma skin cancer – the most severe form of skin cancer – is the third most common form of cancer for people between the ages of 15 and 29. Young people increase their risk of melanoma by 75% when using indoor tanning equipment under the age of 35 (International Agency for Research on Cancer, 2006).

The BC government recently announced banning youth under 18 from using tanning beds. “This is an important step but we will continue our Tanning is Out campaign to encourage students to be tan-free at grad events and general awareness about sun sense,” says Seely.

Other BC Statistics

The most common cancer in BC based on new cases is prostate cancer: 3,700 men in BC will be diagnosed this year. Lung cancer is the second most commonly diagnosed cancer in BC in women (1,500 cases) and men (1,550 cases) this year. Breast cancer is most common in women in BC: 3,000 new cases in 2012.  Colorectal cancer is among the top four with 1,600 new cases in men and 1,250 new cases in women in 2012.

Lung cancer continues to kill more British Columbians than any other cancer with 2,400 deaths expected this year. “While we have made significant progress in reducing smoking, an enormous amount of work needs to be done,” says Rob Cunningham, Senior Policy Analyst for the Canadian Cancer Society. “It is essential that government regulatory and programming initiatives be strengthened so that smoking rates can be driven down as fast as possible.”
There is expected to be a total of 1,150 deaths from colorectal cancer. Six hundred and thirty women in BC are projected to die from breast cancer and 530 men from prostate cancer.

National Statistics

The cancer death rate is going down, resulting in nearly 100,000 lives saved over the last 20 years (1988 to 2007). However, cancer remains the leading cause of death in Canada.

Declines in death rates were seen in all four major cancers, lung (men only), colorectal, breast and prostate. Between 1988 and 2007 overall death rates dropped by 21% in men and 9% in women. The smaller decline in women’s death rate is due to the increase in lung cancer deaths among women in the same timeframe.

The Canadian Cancer Society is a national community-based organization of volunteers whose mission is the eradication of cancer and the enhancement of the quality of life of people living with cancer. When you want to know more about cancer, visit our website or call our toll-free, bilingual Cancer Information Service at 1 888 939-3333.

For more information, please contact:

Gina Ungaro

Media Contact

Canadian Cancer Society

Phone: 604-675-7335