Media backgrounder: Canadian Cancer Statistics: A 2018 special report

13 June 2018

Toronto -

New this year

Canadian Cancer Statistics: A 2018 special report on cancer incidence by stage was released today by the Canadian Cancer Society in partnership with the Public Health Agency of Canada and Statistics Canada in collaboration with the provincial and territorial cancer registries.

In Canadian Cancer Statistics 2017, we provide estimates of new cancers and cancer deaths in Canada. In this year’s special report, we build on these statistics by providing detailed estimates on the stage at which cancers are diagnosed in Canada. This is the first time we have reported on cancer incidence by stage at diagnosis, offering new and valuable insight into Canada’s cancer burden and what can be done about it.

Updated estimates of new cancer cases, cancer deaths and cancer survival will be provided in Canadian Cancer Statistics 2019, which is currently under development.

The following is a summary of key statistics in the 2017 and 2018 publications.

Quick facts

  • Nearly 1 in 2 Canadians is expected to be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime
  • In 2017, an estimated 206,200 Canadians were diagnosed with cancer (excluding non-melanoma skin cancer)
  • Cancer is the leading cause of death in Canada – 1 in 4 Canadians is expected to die from the disease
  • An estimated 80,800 Canadians died from cancer in 2017
  • Since the peak in the cancer death rate in Canada in 1988, it is estimated that over 179,000 deaths have been avoided as a result of cancer prevention and control efforts
  • The 5-year cancer survival rate has increased from about 25% in the 1940s to 60% today

Common cancers

  • In 2017, lung, colorectal, breast and prostate cancers accounted for half of all newly diagnosed cancer cases
  • Lung cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer overall (14% of all cancers diagnosed in 2017) and the leading cause of cancer death. Last year, it caused more cancer deaths among Canadians (21,100) than colorectal, breast and prostate cancer combined (18,500)
    • Between 1989 and 2012, it is estimated that 31,660 lung cancer deaths were avoided as a result of cancer prevention and control efforts
    • About 70% of lung cancers were diagnosed after they have spread (stage 3 or 4)
  • Colorectal cancer is the 2nd most commonly diagnosed cancer (13% of all cancers diagnosed in 2017)
    • Colorectal cancer is the 2nd most common cause of cancer death for males and 3rd most common cause of cancer death for females, accounting for 12% of all cancer deaths in Canada in 2017
    • Colorectal cancer death rates are declining for men and women, which is likely largely due to improvements in diagnosis and treatment
    • Almost 50% of colorectal cancers were diagnosed after they have spread (stage 3 or 4)
  • Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer among Canadian women
    • 1 in 8 Canadian women is expected to be diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime
    • In 2017, an estimated 26,300 women were diagnosed with breast cancer and 5,000 women died of breast cancer
    • The breast cancer death rate has fallen at least 44% since 1988, which likely reflects earlier diagnosis through screening and treatment advances
    • More than 80% of female breast cancers were diagnosed at an early stage (stage 1 or 2)
  • Prostate cancer continues to be the most commonly diagnosed cancer among Canadian men
    • 1 in 7 Canadian men is expected to be diagnosed with prostate cancer in his lifetime
    • In 2017, an estimated 21,300 men were diagnosed with prostate cancer and 4,100 men died of prostate cancer
    • The death rate for prostate cancer has been declining, which likely reflects improvements in treatment
    • Almost 75% of prostate cancers were diagnosed at an early stage (stage 1 or 2)
  • Impact of aging population

  • The number of cancer cases is rising primarily because of the growing and aging Canadian population. Canadian Cancer Statistics 2015 showed the average annual number of cancer cases in 2028-2032 is projected to be 79% higher than it was in 2003-2007
  • In 2017, it was estimated that 89% of all cancers would be diagnosed in Canadians 50 years of age and over and 45% would occur in Canadians 70 years of age and older
  • Almost all cancer deaths in Canada (96%) were expected to occur in people aged 50 and over. Most of these (65%) would occur in people 70 and over
  • With the continued increase in the number of new cancers, the Canadian healthcare system faces increasing demand for cancer services including diagnostics, treatment, palliative care and survivor supports
  • About Canadian Cancer Statistics

    Canadian Cancer Statistics is prepared through a partnership of the Canadian Cancer Society, the Public Health Agency of Canada and Statistics Canada in collaboration with the provincial and territorial cancer registries. For more than 30 years, this publication has been providing information that helps decide what support and services are needed and what research should be done. It also helps assess the impact of prevention, early detection and treatment. For more information about Canadian Cancer Statistics, visit cancer.ca/statistics.

    About the Canadian Cancer Society

    The Canadian Cancer Society is a national, community-based organization of volunteers whose mission is to eradicate cancer and enhance the quality of life of people living with cancer. Thanks to our donors and volunteers, CCS has the most impact, against the most cancers, in the most communities in Canada. Building on our progress, we are working with Canadians to change cancer forever. To learn more about cancer, visit cancer.ca or call our toll-free, bilingual Cancer Information Service at 1-888-939-3333 (TTY 1-866-786-3934).

    For more information, please contact:

    Catherine Kong
    Communications Coordinator
    Canadian Cancer Society
    National office
    Phone: 416-934-5366