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5 new stats about the changing impact of cancer in Canada

Cancer affects us all. Nearly 1 in 2 Canadians will hear the words “you have cancer” in their lifetime. In 2019 alone, an estimated 220,400 Canadians will be diagnosed with cancer – that’s about 25 every hour. While we know each year the number of new cancer cases and deaths is rising due to our aging and growing population, the findings in a new report, Canadian Cancer Statistics 2019, show exciting progress is being made.

In the report, 23 cancers were studied, and almost all were shown to have better survival now than in the early 1990s with blood cancers showing the biggest increases.

As an organization committed to providing trusted cancer information to all Canadians, we’re sharing 5 key findings from the report to show how the impact of cancer is changing across the country.

Cancer survival has improved since the early 1990s from 55% to 63%

A healthy female cancer patient.

Today, Canadians facing cancer have a better chance of surviving than ever before. According to the report, 5-year survival for all cancers combined has increased from 55% in the early 1990s to about 63% today. This is a huge improvement over the 1940s when survival was only about 25%.

This positive shift wouldn’t have been possible without you. Thanks to our dedicated supporters, we’ve been able to – and will continue to – fund game-changing research that helps Canadians go from having cancer to living with and beyond cancer. We now know so much more about what causes cancer, how to treat it and how we can improve the quality of life for people living with it.

Trends like this are proof that together, we are a force-for-life in the face of cancer.

Lung cancer rates have finally started to decrease in females

A young woman snapping a cigarette in half.

While rates of lung cancer diagnoses and deaths have been decreasing in males since the early 1990s, the same hasn’t been seen in females until now.

As the leading cause of cancer death in Canada, resulting in more deaths than the other 3 major cancer types (breast, colorectal and prostate) combined, we know the single most important thing you can do to reduce your risk of lung cancer is to live smoke-free. That’s why we’re thrilled to see this trend emerge in the report following years of our work in tobacco smoking prevention, quit programs, education and advocacy.

Female breast cancer death rates have decreased by nearly half

Group of women wearing pink ribbons for breast cancer awareness.

According to the new report, the breast cancer death rate in females has dropped by an estimated 48% since it peaked in the 1980s! This decrease is likely largely due to the positive impact of screening programs and improvements in treatment for breast cancer.

Thanks to the support of Canadians who share in our passion for the breast cancer cause, including participants of our Canadian Cancer Society CIBC Run for the Cure, we know more than ever before about how to prevent, diagnose, treat and live with and beyond breast cancer – but there’s more to be done. Breast cancer is still the most commonly diagnosed cancer among women, with 1 in 8 expected to develop breast cancer in her lifetime.

Pancreatic cancer is expected to be the 3rd leading cause of cancer death in Canada in 2019

Alex Trebek’s star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Earlier in 2019, television host Alex Trebek revealed his personal journey with pancreatic cancer.

While we are making progress with many cancers, we are not seeing the same with pancreatic cancer. As a result, pancreatic cancer is expected to pass breast cancer to become the 3rd leading cause of cancer death among Canadians in 2019.

Pancreatic cancer is one of the most difficult to treat cancers with the lowest survival rate of 8%. In the last year, we have seen some promising breakthroughs for pancreatic cancer treatment from clinical trials, but there’s still a long way to go. Greater support for hard-to-treat cancers is needed to ensure people not only survive a cancer diagnosis but thrive long after.

84% of children with cancer are expected to live at least 5 years past their diagnosis

A boy sitting on his father’s shoulder, flexing his muscles.

This year’s Canadian Cancer Statistics report reveals positives trends in childhood cancer survival with the 5-year survival rate reaching 84%! As the largest national charitable funder of childhood cancer research, we are proud to see this shift in the right direction.

An estimated 1,000 children (ages 0-14) are expected to face a cancer diagnosis this year. We believe one child with cancer is too many. And while we are seeing an increase in the number of children surviving into adulthood, about two-thirds of these survivors are expected to have at least one chronic or late side effect from their cancer therapy. There is more to be done to help these kids be kids and provide them with the support they need to live their lives to the fullest.


Canadian Cancer Statistics 2019 was developed by the Canadian Cancer Society, the Public Health Agency of Canada and Statistics Canada, in collaboration with 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.

Read the full report

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