Quebec and Canadian Cancer Statistics, 2013 - More cases, but a lower death rate - Special topic: a nationwide rise in liver cancer

29 May 2013

Montreal, QC -

The number of new cancer cases continues to rise steadily with population growth and ageing. In 2013, 48,700 new cancer cases will be diagnosed in Quebec (187,600 in Canada1) and 20,200 deaths will be due to the disease (75,500 in Canada). In the 25-year period from 1988 to 2013, the number of cancer cases in Canada doubled, and it is estimated that by 2031 the number of new cancer cases and deaths will increase by 60%, attaining 280,000 cases and 107,000 deaths.2

“Unfortunately, cancer will continue to be the leading disease in Quebec. But there is good news! The 5-year relative survival rate for all types of cancer as a whole is on the rise and is now about 63%. Survival rates for some forms of cancer, for instance, prostate and thyroid cancer, are greater than 95%,” states Suzanne Dubois, Executive Director, Canadian Cancer Society – Quebec Division.

These are some of the findings contained in Canadian Cancer Statistics, 2013, released today by the Canadian Cancer Society (CCS) in collaboration with the Public Health Agency of Canada and Statistics Canada.

Highlights from Canadian Cancer Statistics 2013

  • On average, one person learns that he or she has cancer every 11 minutes in Quebec (every 3 minutes in Canada). Every 26 minutes, one person in Quebec dies from cancer (every 7 minutes in Canada).
  • Death rates associated with most forms of cancer have not risen among men or women, with the exception of liver cancer in both men and women and lung cancer in women.It is expected that 2 out of 5 Canadians (46% of men and 41% of women) will develop cancer. It is also expected that 1 out of 4 Canadians (28% of men and 24% of women) will die of cancer.
  • More than half (52%) of newly diagnosed cases will involve prostate, lung, breast or colorectal cancers.
  • The rise in the number of new cases in the past 30 years is mainly due to demographic growth and population ageing rather than an increase in cancer risk.
  • In 2013, 88% of new cancer cases and 95% of cancer-related deaths in Canada will occur among people aged 50 and older.
  • Cancer occurs fairly rarely among people aged less than 50 years; however, it is the leading cause of death among Canadians aged 35 to 64, accounting for a greater number of deaths in this age bracket than heart disease, injury, stroke, and diabetes combined.3
  • Approximately 190,000 people in Quebec (about 840,000 in Canada) diagnosed with cancer in the previous 10 years are still alive today

Using prevention as a means of fighting cancer more effectively

A recent survey published to coincide with the CCS’s 75th anniversary reveals that most Canadians recognize the progress that has been made in the fight against cancer but also that major challenges remain. According to the CCS, in efforts to further lighten the burden of cancer and score points, we need to take full advantage of our knowledge regarding prevention and the benefits associated with early detection.

For example, fewer people in Quebec would succumb to cancer if there were a reduction in the smoking rate. Nearly a third of cancer deaths (31%) in Quebec (27% in Canada) are due to lung cancer alone. Smoking is responsible for nearly one out of every three cancer cases, and lung cancer kills twice as many women as breast cancer in Quebec every year and four times as many men as prostate cancer (2,900 women and 3,400 men).

“Currently, too many youngsters are hooked on tobacco. Once again, if nothing is done, too many people in Quebec will die of cancer in 20 or 30 years. If the smoking rate nationwide dropped tomorrow morning from 20 to 10%, in 20 years, some 58,000 new lung cancer cases and 46,000 lung cancer deaths would be prevented[3],” states André Beaulieu, Spokesperson for the CCS – Quebec Division.

In addition, there is clear evidence that engaging in physical activity and maintaining healthy eating habits and a healthy weight reduce the risk of developing health problems, including several types of cancer. At least 50% of cancer cases may be prevented by adopting healthy lifestyles and implementing public health policies. Accordingly, in the years ahead, the CCS will do even more to raise awareness among the population with respect to healthy lifestyle options and their impact on cancer. As it has done in the past with regard to smoking, UV exposure, and asbestos, the CCS will also continue to encourage elected officials to enact policies designed to help prevent cancer.

Early detection

The CCS also strongly believes that there would be fewer cancer deaths in Quebec if coordinated screening programs reached or targeted more people, as in the following cases:

Fecal occult blood test for colorectal cancer

  • The CCS considers that establishing a Quebec-wide colorectal cancer screening program could save hundreds of lives every year; 12% of all cancer deaths in Quebec (2,450) and Canada (9,200) are due to colorectal cancer.
  • If 80% of people aged 50 to 74 years underwent colorectal cancer screening today, we would potentially save 32,000 lives3 in 20 years.
  • The CCS calls for more rapid deployment of the Quebec Colorectal Cancer Screening Program (PQDCC) to everyone in the province aged 50 to 74 years with access to colonoscopies for persons at risk.
Mammography for breast cancer

  • Half of breast cancer diagnoses are made among women aged 50 to 69 years.
  • Mammography is the only scientifically proven screening method for reducing the number of breast cancer deaths.
  • The CCS works hard on the field to encourage more women in Quebec to take part in the Quebec Breast Cancer Screening Program (PQDCS). Of the one million women who are eligible for the Program, approximately 400,000 do not undergo a mammography examination every two years.

Special topic: liver cancer

As noted in the “special topic” section of the Canadian Cancer Statistics 2013, liver cancer is one of the fastest-rising forms of cancer in Canada. Since 1970, the incidence rate of liver cancer has tripled among men and doubled among women nationwide. Though considered a relatively rare cause of death in Quebec (with 250 deaths expected this year in the province and 1,000 across the country), liver cancer kills twice as many men as in 1970. The 5-year survival rate for this type of cancer is only 20%.

The main risk factors for liver cancer are chronic hepatitis B and C infections – and many people are unaware that they have hepatitis. According to the Public Health Agency of Canada, about 600,000 Canadians are infected with hepatitis B or C. Other factors are also associated with greater liver cancer risk, including alcohol use, smoking, diabetes, and obesity.

To offset the rise in liver cancer incidence and death rates, the CCS encourages:

  • The public to find out more about liver cancer, particularly risk factors, to help protect against the disease and undergo testing for hepatitis and treatment if required.
  • Primary healthcare providers to offer hepatitis B vaccination, test for hepatitis B and C among people who are at risk, including newcomers to Canada from parts of the world where hepatitis B, hepatitis C or liver cancer are more common.
The following factors are associated with high liver cancer risk:
  • chronic hepatitis B and C
  • alcohol use
  • smoking
  • diabetes
  • obesity
  • occupational exposure to vinyl chloride or PCBs
  • some metabolic diseases and primary biliary cirrhosis

The Canadian Cancer Statistics 2013 report was prepared by the Canadian Cancer Society in collaboration with the Public Health Agency of Canada, Statistics Canada, provincial and territorial cancer registries.

Cancer facts from Canadian Cancer Statistics 2013


[1] Not including the cases non-melanoma skin cancer.

[2] Canadian Partnership Against Cancer, 2012-17 strategic plan, Sustaining action Toward a Shared Vision.

[3] Canadian Partnership Against Cancer, 2012-17 strategic plan, Sustaining Action Toward a Shared Vision.

For 75 years, the Canadian Cancer Society has been with Canadians in the fight for life. All these years, we have been relentless in our commitment to prevent cancer, fund research and support people touched by the disease. From this foundation, we will work with Canadians to change cancer forever so fewer Canadians are diagnosed with the disease and more survive. To know more about cancer, visit cancer.ca or call our Cancer Information Service at 1 888 939-3333.

For more information, please contact:

André Beaulieu

Spokesperson and Senior Advisor, Public Relations

Canadian Cancer Society

Quebec Division

Phone: (514) 393-3444