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Cancer statistics at a glance

Cancer statistics tell us how many people in Canada are diagnosed with and die from cancer each year. They show us the trends in new cancer cases and cancer deaths. Cancer statistics also tell us the likelihood of surviving a cancer diagnosis and the percentage of people who are alive years after a cancer diagnosis.

Canadian provinces and territories collect data on cancer cases and cancer deaths. These data are combined to provide a picture of the impact of cancer for all of Canada.

Statistics are an important part of healthcare planning and measuring the success of cancer control.

Incidence and mortality

Incidence relates to the number of new cases of cancer. Mortality relates to the number of deaths due to cancer. To provide the most current cancer statistics, researchers use the most up-to-date data available and statistical methods to estimate the number of new cancer cases and deaths for the current year.

There will be an estimated 225,800 new cancer cases and 83,300 cancer deaths in Canada in 2020. (The number of estimated new cases does not include non-melanoma skin cancer cases.)

Cancer is the leading cause of death in Canada and is responsible for 30% of all deaths.

Pie chart shows the proportion of deaths due to cancer and other causes in 2016 cancer represents 29.6 percent

It is estimated that in 2020:

  • 115,800 Canadian men will be diagnosed with cancer and 44,100 men will die from cancer.
  • 110,000 Canadian women will be diagnosed with cancer and 39,300 women will die from cancer.
  • On average, 617 Canadians will be diagnosed with cancer every day.
  • On average, 228 Canadians will die from cancer every day.

Lung, breast, colorectal and prostate cancer are the most commonly diagnosed types of cancer in Canada (excluding non-melanoma skin cancer). Based on 2020 estimates:

  • These 4 cancers account for about half (48%) of all new cancer cases.
  • Prostate cancer accounts for one-fifth (20%) of all new cancer cases in men.
  • Lung cancer accounts for 14% of all new cases of cancer.
  • Breast cancer accounts for one-quarter (25%) of all new cancer cases in women.
  • Colorectal cancer accounts for 12% of all new cancer cases.

Trends in cancer rates

Cancer is a disease that mostly affects Canadians aged 50 and older, but it can occur at any age.

Across Canada, cancer incidence rates vary because of differences in risk factors (including risk behaviours) and early detection practices. Similarly, rates of cancer death vary because of differences in incidence but also potentially differences in access to and outcomes of cancer control activities (for example, screening, diagnosis, treatment and follow-up) across the country.

Chances (probability) of developing or dying from cancer

Based on 2015 estimates:

  • Nearly 1 in 2 Canadians (45% of men and 43% of women) is expected to develop cancer during their lifetime.
  • About 1 out of 4 Canadians (26% of men and 23% of women) is expected to die from cancer.

Survival

There are many different ways of measuring and reporting cancer survival statistics. Net survival is an estimate of the percentage of people who are alive at some point in time after their cancer diagnosis, accounting for other causes of death. Most survival statistics are reported for a specific time period, usually 5 years.

Based on data from 2012 to 2014, 63% of Canadians diagnosed with cancer are expected to survive for 5 years or more after a cancer diagnosis. Between 1992 and 1994, the survival rate was 55%.

Survival rates vary from low to high depending on the type of cancer. Based on 2012–2014 data:

  • The 5-year net survival rate for lung cancer is low (19%).
  • The 5-year net survival rate for colorectal cancer is about average (65%).
  • The 5-year net survival rate is high for prostate cancer (93%) and breast cancer (88%).

For more information, go to the Canadian Cancer Statistics.

Stories

A teenaged girl sitting on her bed I was in total shock when I heard the diagnosis of cancer. Cancer to me was an adult’s disease. Being a 13-year-old teenager, it certainly wasn’t even on my radar.

Read Sabrina's story

Great progress has been made

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Some cancers, such as thyroid and testicular, have survival rates of over 90%. Other cancers, such as pancreatic, brain and esophageal, continue to have very low survival rates.

Learn more