Cancer burden weighs heavy on health report card

The Health of Queenslanders 2018 report, released this week, has shown that cancer is still the leading cause of disease burden in Queensland – and Cancer Council Queensland has echoed calls from the Chief Health Officer that more needs to be done to address the impact of preventable factors.*

Cancer Council Queensland CEO Chris McMillan said while the report showed significant achievements in prevention, the statistics on tobacco use, diet, physical activity, rates of obesity, and sun protection – all modifiable causes of cancer – made it clear that there was no time for complacency.

“The impact cancer has on Queenslanders cannot be overstated – as the Chief Health Officer’s report shows, this insidious disease makes up 18 per cent of the total disease burden for the state,” Ms McMillan said.

“Research has shown that one third of all cancer cases are preventable through healthy lifestyle choices, including limiting alcohol, quitting smoking, maintaining a healthy weight, eating well, keeping active and being SunSmart.”

The Health of Queenslanders Report 2018 revealed a decline in smoking rates, with 11 per cent of Queensland adults smoking daily in 2018; a rate that has been halved over the past 20 years.

“The smoking trends in the report are encouraging, but there are still 424,000 Queensland adults who are smoking daily,” Ms McMillan said.

“With tobacco use the leading individual risk factor in Queensland, responsible for 9 per cent of the total disease burden, and the leading cause of cancer, we need to continue the progress that has been made in tobacco control.”

The report also found rates of obesity appeared to be steadying in Queensland – a concern due to the current rates being a major health issue.

“More than a million Queensland adults and 61,000 children are now impacted by obesity,” Ms McMillan said.

“Overweight and obesity is more than just a personal problem for those affected – it’s a community challenge that we must address by working together to find ways of getting people moving more and eating less unhealthy food.”

According to the report, a key factor that is stopping people’s waistlines from shrinking is their diets.

“Less than 10 per cent of Queenslanders consume the sufficient amount of vegetables and more than one-third of total daily energy intake is from unhealthy food sources,” Ms McMillan said.

“Also of concern is that one in five Queenslanders are drinking alcohol at risky levels.

“Food and drink that were once considered occasional treats have made their way into our daily diets, with damaging consequences for our health.”

Ms McMillan said while it was promising that the melanoma incidence rate for young people had declined, the state’s high sunburn rates were of considerable concern.

The report showed that 54 per cent of adults and 46 per cent of children were sunburnt in the previous 12 months.

“Sunburn and the majority of skin cancers are preventable through taking care in the sun – it is vital for all Queenslanders to take sun safety more seriously,” Ms McMillan said.

Cancer Council Queensland commended the Health Minister and Chief Health Officer on The Health of Queenslanders Report, and the Queensland Government for its ongoing commitment to help Queenslanders live happier, healthier lives.

“If we can improve our lifestyle decisions against these six critical cancer prevention indicators, we can help to reduce the burden of cancer in our community,” Ms McMillan said.

To help Queenslanders make the healthy choice, the easy choice – Queenslanders can get involved with Cancer Council’s free cancer prevention program QUEST, by visiting

More information about Cancer Council Queensland is available at or via 13 11 20.


*Report of the Chief Health Officer Queensland, The Health of Queenslanders Report 2018.
For more information, please contact:

Lisa Maynard, Manager, Public Relations and Social Media
Cancer Council Queensland
P. (07) 3634 5171 or E.