Cancer now leading cause of death nationally

Cancer has overtaken circulatory diseases as the leading cause of death in Australia, according to the latest Council of Australian Governments report released last week.

The COAG Reform Council’s Healthcare in Australia 2012-13 reported on national healthcare progress and outcomes during the 2007-08 to 2012-13 period.

The report found Australian deaths from both circulatory diseases (heart attacks, strokes) and cancer fell over the past five years (circulatory diseases up to 15 per cent).

The findings show cancer rates changed little during the reporting period, and cancer deaths only fell in some States and Territories.

Cancer Council Queensland spokesperson Katie Clift said despite cancer being the number one killer, more Australians were surviving the disease than ever before.

“In Queensland alone, the five year relative survival rate for all cancers has increased from 53 per cent in the 1980s to nearly 69 per cent today,” Ms Clift said.

“We are making progress in research, clinical trials and treatment for all cancers, but more needs to be done to reduce cancer incidence and further improve survival rates.

“The COAG report shows an increase in melanoma rates, from 61.7 new cases per 100,000 people in 2006, to 68.2 new cases per 100,000 people in 2010.

“This increase reflects our ageing and increasing population, and we expect to see a significant reduction in deaths as younger Queenslanders brought up with the Slip, Slop, Slap message start to age.

“The findings also show smoking rates in Queensland dropped from 21.6 per cent in 2008 to 17.9 per cent in 2011-12.

“These are encouraging statistics, and we need stronger measures in place to help more people quit smoking and avoid premature death over the coming years.”

The COAG report also identified adult obesity as a major cause for concern, with Queensland rates rising from 61 per cent in 2007-08 to nearly 65 per cent in 2011-12.

“More than one third of all cancer deaths are preventable through healthy lifestyle factors including quitting smoking, maintaining a healthy diet and weight, engaging in physical activity, staying SunSmart and participating in recommended screening,” Ms Clift said.

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

Queensland communities are invited to join the QUEST to live a healthier life at

For more information or interviews, please contact:

Katie Clift, Executive Manager, Media and Spokesperson, Cancer Council Queensland

Ph: (07) 3634 5372 or 0409 001 171