Canadian Cancer Society report shows Canadian cancer death rate down

09 May 2012

Winnipeg, Manitoba -

Progress in the fight against cancer has saved nearly 100,000 Canadians over the last 20 years as the rate of people killed by the disease continues to decline.

However, the 2012 Canadian Cancer Statistics report shows that there is still a great deal of work to be done. The report, released by the Canadian Cancer Society in collaboration with the Public Health Agency of Canada and Statistics Canada shows that cancer continues to be the leading cause of death in Canada.

The investments that Canadians have made in the cancer fight are paying off,” said Will Cooke, Tobacco Advocacy Coordinator with the Canadian Cancer Society’s Manitoba Division. “Investments in research, better screening and treatments and Manitobans making healthier choices – including giving up cigarette smoking – have saved the lives of more than 3,000 Manitobans.

However, with 6,100 families expected to face a cancer diagnosis this year we cannot be complacent. We need to continue to fight.”

The 2012 report shows the death rate has declined in the four major cancers – lung, colorectal, breast and prostate – that account for nearly 60% of all cancer diagnoses. . Between 1988 and 2007, overall death rates dropped by 21% in men and 9% in women. 

A smaller decline in the women’s death rate is due to the increase in lung cancer deaths among women over the same timeframe. This increase is thought to be due primarily to the fact that women’s smoking rates did not begin to decline until the 1980s, whereas smoking rates among men began to decline in the 1960s. It takes about 20 to 30 years before decreases in population-wide smoking prevalence translate into declines in lung cancer incidence and death rates.

Tobacco use, along with unhealthy diet, physical inactivity, excess body weight, alcohol consumption, over-exposure to the sun and exposure to environmental and workplace carcinogens account for a substantial number of cancer diagnoses and deaths each year.

About half of cancers can be prevented,” said Cooke.  “Even greater gains can be made in reducing cancer rates if more is done to help Canadians embrace healthy lifestyles and if governments do more to create policies that encourage people to make these changes.

The Cancer Society is committed to cancer prevention and helping Manitobans make healthy choices that can reduce their cancer risk.  The Society is working to introduce new changes and policies that encourage healthy lifestyles.”

Tobacco control and lung cancer

The decline in smoking rates among men is a significant reason for the overall drop in the death rate for men. The lung cancer death rate for men dropped by 30% between 1988 and 2007. Among Canadian males aged 15 and up, smoking has declined from a high of 61% in 1965 to 20% in 2010.  In Manitoba, the smoking rate currently sits at 21% for men and women.

Victor Morello is one of the lucky ones who survived cancer due to smoking.  “When I used to smoke, everyone was smoking,” says Morello, a volunteer driver for the Canadian Cancer Society’s Transportation Service.  “I made a promise to myself that if I beat my cancer, I would help others, and that’s why I help to provide rides for cancer patients to and from their treatments.  If you are smoking, it’s never too late to quit, and if you don’t smoke – don’t start!”

Among women, however, the lung cancer death rate has not dropped yet, although it has now stabilized. This is because smoking among women peaked later than among men and saw substantial declines beginning only in the 1980s.

In 1965, 38% of Canadian women smoked, compared to 14% of Canadian women who smoked in 2010.  

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death among men and women.  More Canadians die of lung cancer every year than the combined deaths from breast, colorectal and prostate cancer.

Overall, current smoking rates among Canadians (males and females combined) is 17% (2010), compared to 25% in 1999 and 50% in 1965. Smoking accounts for about 30% of all cancer deaths. It is linked with an increased risk for at least 18 types of cancer, including lung, larynx, oral, stomach, pancreas and kidney.

Manitoba has one of the highest smoking rates in Canada,” Cooke said. “We’re pleased that the provincial government has signaled in its last budget that it is committed to reducing tobacco use in Manitoba.

We have a lot of work to do but it is essential that we drive down the smoking rate as quickly as possible. The government’s commitment to limit access to tobacco products, support those trying to quit and commit 2% of tobacco taxes to tobacco control measures is a significant step in the right direction.”
Improvements in cancer screening and treatments

The declining death rates also suggest that improvements in screening and early detection are having a positive effect, such as:

  • the fecal occult blood test for colorectal cancer
  • the Pap test for cervical cancer
  • screening mammography for breast cancer 

In addition, the discovery and use of more effective and less toxic cancer treatments are saving more lives.

General highlights: Canadian Cancer Statistics 2012

  • An estimated 186,400 new cases of cancer (excluding 81,300 cases of non-melanoma skin cancer) and 75,700 deaths from cancer are expected to occur in Canada in 2012.
  • In Manitoba, 6,100 new cases of cancer and 2,850 deaths from cancer are expected to occur in 2012.
  • More than one quarter of all cancer deaths (27%) are due to lung cancer.
  • Four major cancers (lung, breast, colorectal and prostate) account for the majority (53%) of newly diagnosed cancers in both men and women.
  • The death rate for all cancers combined is declining for males in most age groups and for females under 70.
  • There were no increases in death rates for most types of cancer in men or women. Notable exceptions include liver (men), and lung (women).
  • The five-year relative survival rate for all cancers combined is 62%.  That’s almost twice as many people surviving cancer than in the 1960’s.
  • The number of new cancer cases continues to rise steadily as the Canadian population grows and ages.

Canadian Cancer Statistics 2012 was prepared and distributed through a collaboration of the Canadian Cancer Society, the Public Health Agency of Canada, Statistics Canada, provincial/territorial cancer registries, as well as university-based and provincial/territorial cancer agency-based cancer researchers.

Media are invited to Canadian Cancer Society offices at 193 Sherbrook in Winnipeg at 10:30am to conduct interviews with Will Cook and Victor Morello.  For radio stations or media outside of Winnipeg, telephone interviews can be arranged.

For more information about Canadian Cancer Statistics 2012, visit the Society’s website at

The Canadian Cancer Society (CCS) is the only national charity that supports Canadians with all cancers in communities across the country. No other organization does what we do; we are the voice for Canadians who care about cancer. We fund groundbreaking research, provide a support system for all those affected by cancer and advocate to governments for important social change.

Help us make a difference. Call 1-888-939-3333 or visit today.

For more information, please contact:

Jason Permanand

Communications Manager

Canadian Cancer Society


Phone: 204-990-4310