Canadian Cancer Statistics, 2012 - Cancer death rate down but increase in new cases

09 May 2012

Montreal, QC -

The cancer death rate is going down in Canada, resulting in nearly 100,000 lives saved in 20 years (from 1988 to 2007). These are two of the findings contained in Canadian Cancer Statistics, 2012, a report released today by the Canadian Cancer Society (CCS) in collaboration with the Public Health Agency of Canada and Statistics Canada.

“Despite this drop in the death rate, cancer remains the leading cause of death in Quebec and across the country. The CCS believes that to ease the burden of cancer, we must prioritize the fight against smoking as well as the use of early screening in the years ahead,” states André Beaulieu, spokesperson for the CCS – Quebec Division.

Highlights from Canadian Cancer Statistics 2012

  • Between 1988 and 2007, overall death rates in all forms of cancer dropped by 21% in men and 9% in women.
  • During the same period, the decline in the death rate among women was smaller due to the increase in the lung cancer death rate (associated with smoking).
  • There was a decline in death rates of the four major cancers, namely lung, breast, prostate, and colorectal. These account for the majority (53%) of new cancer cases that will be diagnosed this year in Quebec and Canada.
  • In 2012, an estimated 47,600 new cases of cancer will be diagnosed in Quebec (186,400 in Canada[1]) and 20,000 deaths will be attributable to the disease in Quebec (75,700 in Canada).
  • 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 7.5 minutes in Canada).
  • Age is the leading risk factor. The number of new cases of cancer rises as the population of Quebec increases and ages. In 2012, 88% of new cancer cases and 95% of cancer-related deaths in Canada will occur among people aged 50 and older.

Prevention, smoking rate, and lung cancer

The drop in the cancer death rate among men is largely attributable to the decline of smoking. In Quebec, from 1984 to 2006, the lung cancer death rate fell by 29% among men and doubled among women[2].

This rise is essentially due to the fact that smoking among women began to decline in the 1980s, but has been dropping among men since the 1960s[3].

· Nearly a third (31%) of cancer-related deaths in Quebec (27% in Canada) are imputable to lung cancer.

· Every year, lung cancer kills more men and women in Quebec than prostate cancer, colorectal cancer, ovarian cancer, pancreatic cancer, stomach cancer, and uterine cancer combined.

· Smoking accounts for about 30% of cancer deaths. It is associated with increased risk for at least 18 types of cancer, including lung, larynx, oral, stomach, pancreatic, and kidney.


In 2010, the smoking rate among men and women in Quebec was 20%, compared to 30% in 1999 and 50% in 1965. Smoking has declined sharply in the past 10 years. However, the battle is not won yet, since the rate has remained level since 2006 and, from a statistical standpoint, the number of smokers in Quebec has not changed.

“For each smoker who quits or dies, another person takes up smoking. Tobacco use accounts for one out of every three cancer deaths, and that is why the CCS continues to prioritize this issue. We believe that amending the Tobacco Act is critical and would save lives as well as reduce healthcare costs”, states Mélanie Champagne, Coordinator, Public Issues, CCS – Quebec Division.

In efforts to protect youths and prevent them from taking up smoking, key legislative and fiscal measures must promptly be adopted. Accordingly, the CCS calls for the following:

  • The government must get tough with the tobacco industry
  • A market freeze on tobacco products and ban flavours
  • Increased tobacco taxes, at least to the level in effect in Ontario (the province with the lowest tobacco taxes with the exception of Quebec)
  • Intensified efforts in the fight against tobacco contraband
  • Use of plain packaging (as in Australia and New Zealand)

The CCS was extremely disappointed at the federal government’s decision a month ago to cut funding dramatically for Health Canada’s tobacco control strategy. “The strategy has been very successful,” says Ms Champagne, “and these cuts will hinder current efforts to reduce the smoking rate. Considering the devastating effects of smoking, governments should be doing more against tobacco use, not less.”

The harmful effects of smoking in our lives

  • There are still over 1.5 million smokers in Quebec, and unfortunately 28% of youths in the province (aged 20 to 34) are addicted to smoking.
  • 90 youths in Quebec will take up smoking today—33,000 this year.
  • Every year, the government collects about $850 million in tobacco tax revenue; however, tobacco use generates total direct and indirect costs exceeding $4 billion annually in Quebec.
  • Smoking is responsible for about a third (32.6%) of full-day hospital stays in Quebec’s major hospital centres.
  • Smoking accounts for more deaths than road accidents, AIDS, drug use, alcohol abuse, fires, homicides, and suicides combined.



Prevention: kids/teens and artificial tanning

Skin cancer is the most prevalent cancer in Quebec (ranging from 22,000 to 35,000 cases a year according to sources). In the past 15 years, the number of melanoma cases has doubled: we must act quickly to reduce the incidence of melanoma. Currently, no legislation in Quebec regulates the hundreds of tanning salons operating across the province though they sell a carcinogenic product. On the strength of a petition signed by 60,000 people and support from 65 organizations (representing over 600 groups), the CCS urgently calls for a ban on the sale and promotion of artificial tanning services to minors and the establishment of a registry of businesses in this industry.

Improved early screening

The CCS also believes that we must do more to take full advantage of screening opportunities and further ease the burden of cancer. Fewer people in Quebec would die of cancer if certain screening programs were established or expanded. This is the case for the following screening tests:

Fecal occult blood test for colorectal cancer screening

The CCS considers that the establishment of a Quebec-wide colorectal cancer screening program could save hundreds of lives every year[4]. The CCS calls for a more rapid deployment of the Quebec Colorectal 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 screening

The CCS is also active in the field in efforts to encourage more women in Quebec aged 50 to 69 to take part in the Quebec Breast Cancer Screening Program (PQDCS). Currently, only 58%[5] of women in Quebec in this age group officially take part in the program[6].

The Canadian Cancer Statistics 2012 report was prepared and distributed by the Canadian Cancer Society in collaboration with the Public Health Agency of Canada, Statistics Canada, provincial and territorial cancer registries, and researchers based in universities or provincial and territorial cancer agencies.

The fight against cancer: other major issues in Quebec

Media Backgrounder: Canadian Cancer Statistics, 2012

[1] Not including the 81,300 cases of non-melanoma (basal and squamous cell) skin cancer.

[2] PORTRAIT DU CANCER AU QUÉBEC, 2006 published in 2010.

[3] It takes time before reductions in the prevalence of population-wide smoking translate into decreases in lung cancer incidence and death rates.

[4] The probability of curing colorectal cancer is 90% when it is detected early. Scientific data also indicate that the number of colorectal cancer deaths can be reduced by about 15 to 18% if 60% of the population at medium risk and aged 50 to 74 years underwent a fecal occult blood test every two years.

[5] Institut national de la santé publique (INSPQ), 2011.

[6] Several studies suggest the number of breast cancer deaths may be reduced by an estimated 25% if women aged 50 to 69 years underwent preventive mammography every two years. Ministère de la Santé et des Services sociaux - MSSS.

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.

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For more information, please contact:

André Beaulieu

Spokesperson and Senior Advisor, Public Relations

Canadian Cancer Society

Quebec Division

Phone: (514) 393-3444