Australian men twice as likely to get cancer as rest of the world

The Australia and New Zealand region has the highest risk of cancer in the world, new global estimates show. Photo: Andrew Quilty. Courtesy: The Age

Half of Australian men will suffer from cancer at some stage during their lifetimes, according to new data from the World Health Organisation’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC).

Released last week, the Globocan 2018 database, which estimates the number of incidents of cancer around the world, showed that the Australian and New Zealand region had the highest risk.

In 2018, Australia will have an estimated 197,876 new cases of cancer, with 120,034 of these in men.

The estimates show Australian men have a 49.58 per cent chance of developing cancer before the age of 75, while women are less likely to contract it, with a 33.36 per cent chance.

For men, this is more than double the world average of 22 per cent.

The good news, though, is that the most common type of cancer in Australia is non-melanoma skin cancer – 59,278 new cases in 2018 – which is generally not life-threatening, with a death rate of only 1.79 per cent in 2018.

“Australia has the highest rate of skin cancer in the world and that gets the numbers up,” Cancer Council Australia chief executive Sanchia Aranda said.

“In addition, Australia has declining rates of heart disease and stroke and our life expectancy is among the highest in the world and cancer is a disease of the ageing.”

While skin cancer is often non-life-threatening, Professor Aranda said the high rates of skin cancer were still a concern due to the huge cost of treating it.

“Non-melanoma skin cancer costs the Australian government about a billion dollars a year in healthcare costs; it’s one of the most expensive cancers because of the sheer volume of it.

“It’s never too late to protect your skin from the sun and we encourage all Australians to be aware that it’s UV not heat so take note of the UV levels on any given day and avoid prolonged periods out in the sun,” she said.

Under non-melanoma skin cancer, the most common cancers for Australians are breast and prostate, with both clocking up just over 18,000 new cases in 2018. Prostate cancer is also the most deadly, with an estimated 3290 deaths in 2018.

Globally, the IARC estimates that the cancer burden has grown by 18.1 million new cases and 9.6 million deaths in 2018.