BC continues to have lowest cancer incidence and mortality rates in Canada

29 May 2013

Vancouver, BC -

British Columbia continues to lead the country with its lower cancer incidence and mortality rates, according to Canadian Cancer Statistics 2013, released today by the Canadian Cancer Society in collaboration with the Public Health Agency of Canada and Statistics Canada.

In BC, an estimated 23,800 new cancer cases and 9,700 cancer deaths are expected in 2013, which is generally consistent with 2012 (23,300 and 9,800). The historically lower rates in BC are often attributed to British Columbians smoking less, eating healthier and being more physically active as well as our province’s leading early detection and cancer diagnosis programs and procedures. 

“We’re proud of the collective work we’ve done in this province to make a real and measurable impact on cancer but there is still so much more work to do,” says Dr. Sandra Krueckl, Director of Information and Support, Canadian Cancer Society, BC and Yukon. “Largely preventable cancers, such as liver and melanoma cancers, are still claiming far too many lives and it’s time for change.” 

This year the Canadian Cancer Statistics 2013 publication focused on liver cancer as one of the fastest rising of all cancers in the country. Since 1970, the incidence rate of liver cancer has tripled in Canadian men and doubled in Canadian women and yet most Canadians do not know enough about risk factors and prevention.

In BC, the most recent statistics available (2007) reveal that there were 173 new cases of liver cancer in men and 176 deaths. For women in BC during the same year, there were 64 new liver cancer cases and 89 deaths.

The main risk factors for liver cancer are chronic hepatitis B and C infections. In late March 2013, the BC government announced an investment of $1.5 million in a program that will find new ways to fight hepatitis B and C and prevent new infections.

“Incidence and death rates for liver cancer are expected to continue to rise in Canada if more is not done,” explains Krueckl. “We’re hopeful that programs like the one funded by the BC government this spring will have an impact and that people will start making some changes in their lives to reduce their risk for this very preventable cancer.” 

For males in BC, prostate cancer continues to be the most common cancer based on incidence rates with 3,500 men expected to be diagnosed in 2013. This is 200 fewer cases than 2012. For women in BC, the most common cancer based on incidence rates is breast cancer, with 3,100 females expected to be diagnosed this year. BC has the second lowest breast cancer mortality rate of all provinces in the country.  

Lung cancer continues to be the number one cause of cancer death for both men and women in BC and will kill 2,400 British Columbians this year. Tobacco use causes about 85 per cent of lung cancer cases. To help decrease smoking rates even further and prevent lung cancer, the Society has been strongly advocating for regulations in BC that would make outdoor patios of bars and restaurants, as well as beaches, parks and playgrounds, smoke-free. In addition, the Society plans to advocate to the BC government to increase tobacco taxes to make smoking more expensive, which would encourage smokers to quit and prevent youth from starting to smoke. Presently, Northwest Territories, Manitoba, Nova Scotia, Saskatchewan, Prince Edward Island, Nunavut, Newfoundland and Labrador have higher rates of tobacco taxes than BC. 

For more information about Canadian Cancer Statistics 2013, visit cancer.ca.  

For 75 years, the Canadian Cancer Society has been with Canadians in the fight for life. We have been relentless in our commitment to prevent cancer, fund research and support Canadians touched by cancer. From this foundation, we will work with Canadians to change cancer forever so fewer Canadians are diagnosed with the disease and more survive. When you want to know more about cancer, visit our website at cancer.ca or call our toll-free bilingual Cancer Information Service at 1 888 939-3333 (TTY: 1 866 786-3934).

For more information or for a fact sheet outlining key stats, please contact:

Sheila Dong
Manager, Media Relations, Canadian Cancer Society, BC & Yukon
604-675-7365 / 604-802-2321 (cell)

Gina Ungaro
Coordinator, Media Relations and Marketing, Canadian Cancer Society, BC & Yukon
604-675-7335 / 604-313-8097