May 2015 - Media backgrounder: Canadian Cancer Statistics. Predictions of the future burden of cancer in Canada

27 May 2015

Montreal -

Canadian Cancer Statistics 2015 was released today by the Canadian Cancer Society, in collaboration with the Public Health Agency of Canada and Statistics Canada. The report includes a special topic chapter on predictions of the future burden of cancer in Canada. 


The aging and growth of the Canadian population are expected to cause a large increase in the number of cancer cases by 2030 (about a 40% increase from 2015). These long-term projections are useful for planning purposes, whether for prevention, early detection, treatment, psychosocial, palliative and medical care, and for research. 


The special topic chapter is partly based on a study done by the Public Health Agency of Canada on projected incidence counts and rates up to 2028-2032, for 25 types of cancer using Canadian cancer data. At the time of writing of that study, the most current available national data were for cancer diagnoses up to 2007. As a result, 5-year periods up to 2003-2007 are used as the baseline periods for long-term projections in the chapter. 

Because the data and estimates are averaged over 5 year periods, for simplicity throughout the materials we refer to the midpoint year of each range. For example, for 2003-2007, we say “2005”.

Future predictions depend on several assumptions. For example, that past trends will continue into the future, and that the prevalence of most risk factors is relatively stable during the projection period. Trends may vary over time but it is expected these predictions will be shown to be accurate.

The chapter also used the Canadian Partnership Against Cancer’s Cancer Risk Management Model (CRMM) to develop a series of scenarios that show the impact of selected cancer control interventions. These scenarios allow health system leaders, researchers and policy makers to test “what-if” scenarios related to potential cancer control interventions. 


New cancer cases in the future

  • By 2030, the average annual number of new cancer cases is estimated to increase almost 80% compared to 2005. This translates to about 277,000 new cases in 2030, up from about 200,000 in 2015 and about 155,000 cases in 2005.
  • The expected increase in the number of new cancer cases in both men and women will primarily be due to the aging of the Canadian population and, to a lesser extent, population growth. 
  • Between 2005 and 2030, it is estimated that the population of Canada will grow almost 30%, or about 9.5 million residents. Over this period, the proportion of Canadians aged 65 and older will also grow from approximately 1 in 8 to 1 in 4.
  • During the same period, the number of new cancer cases is expected to more than double in those aged 65 and over. The greatest number of new cancer cases is expected in this age group.
  • The 4 most commonly diagnosed cancers in 2015 will also be the most commonly diagnosed in 2030. Prostate cancer will be the most commonly diagnosed cancer, followed by colorectal, then lung, then breast. 
  • Colorectal cancer is projected to overtake lung cancer as the second most frequently diagnosed cancer in males by 2030. This change is explained in part by the decreasing incidence of lung cancer due to declining smoking rates.
  • If 80% of Canadians aged 50+ were screened for colorectal cancer using the stool test, this could lead to 40,000 lives saved over the next 15 years.
  • The percentage increase in new cases compared to 2005 is expected to be greatest for many of the less common cancer types such as liver (162% increase) and thyroid (144%).  

The risk of getting cancer in the future 

  • The age-standardized incidence rate – an indicator of individual risk – will not change substantially.
    • Incidence rate is the number of new cases of cancer per 100,000 people
    • The incidence rate for men will decline slightly (from 465 to 443 cases per 100,000 men) and increase slightly for women (from 358 to 371 cases per 100,000 women).
  • The incidence rates for various cancer types are expected to change to varying degrees up to 2030 when examined by their main risk factors:
    • Incidence rates for most smoking-related cancers will decrease over time
    • Other major cancer risk factors, such as excess weight, physical inactivity, poor diet, alcohol consumption and infection are expected to affect different cancers to varying degrees.

The influence of risk factors on the future burden of cancer

  • Major modifiable cancer risk factors include: smoking, being overweight or obese, physical inactivity, diet/nutrition, UV exposure, alcohol consumption, certain infections, medicinal drugs, and occupational and environmental contaminants. 
  • The proportion of new cancer cases attributed to each risk factor varies by cancer type. 
  • In addition, non-modifiable risk factors, such as genetics and older age, also affect the risk of developing cancer. 

The implications of these predictions

• Projection of cancer incidence can provide an evidence base for planning strategies for resources and infrastructure for sustainable cancer care
• Reducing risk of cancer will play an important role in the future burden of cancer. As a result, there will be a need for continued strengthening of cancer prevention and early detection to reduce the future incidence of cancer.

Preparing for the surge in cancer cases 

  • Education and training for medical specialists needed to care for the growing number of Canadians diagnosed with cancer, such as oncologists, family doctors, nurses, technicians, and personal support workers 
  • Infrastructure, such as diagnostic and treatment facilities, cancer care centres, and infrastructure to support community-based care
  • Research into cancer care planning and effective public policy development, including human resources planning
  • Improved support for family caregivers and better support for cancer survivors

Canadian Cancer Statistics 2015 was prepared through a partnership of the Canadian Cancer Society, the Public Health Agency of Canada, Statistics Canada and provincial and territorial cancer registries. For more information about Canadian Cancer Statistics 2015, visit

About the
Canadian Cancer Society
With the support of 300,000 donors annually and 30,000 volunteers, the CCS is the Quebec cancer charity with the greatest potential to save more lives. Every year, around 135,000 Quebecers turn to the organization. So, the CCS is doing everything it can to increase the overall cancer survival rate, which is currently at 63%, to 80% by 2030. 

The money raised by the CCS enables us to:
  • prevent more cancers and demand laws that protect public health
  • fund more research projects s
  • upport more people living with cancer 
Let’s save more lives. Visit or call us 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