Notes on the data: Cancer incidence

Cancer incidence by type, male, female and total population, 2006 to 2010


Policy context: Cancer is a broad term representing a number of different diseases. Cancer occurs when cells of the body grow and multiply abnormally, becoming dangerous when they spread to surrounding or different areas of the body. Abnormal cell growth can arise from almost any type of tissue cell [1].

Incidence of all types of cancers combined has increased in recent decades, although the rate has declined slightly since 2008 [1]. Over the same period, five-year survival rates have improved and the death rate has declined [2].Over the five years from 2006 to 2010, over half of the 565,585 new cases of cancer diagnosed were for males (57%) and 69.3% for people aged 60 years and over. The most common cancer for males was prostate cancer, and for females was breast cancer. The next most common cases for both males and females were colorectal (bowel) cancer, melanoma of the skin and lung cancer.

Cancer was the second leading cause of death in 2012 and remains a major cause of illness.

The National Cancer Prevention Policy recommends population measures for reducing the incidence of preventable cancers focusing on prevention, early detection and immunisation. Preventable risk factors include tobacco and alcohol consumption, overweight and obesity, physical inactivity and diet, ultraviolet radiation exposure and occupational hazards. Population-based screening programs in Australia target breast, cervical and bowel cancers. Population-immunisation programs reduce the incidence of cancer-causing infections, namely human papillomavirus (HPV) which is responsible for almost all cervical cancer, and hepatitis B virus (HBV), which is a leading cause of liver cancer [3].


  1. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 2017. Cancer in Australia 2017. Cancer series no. 101. Cat. no. CAN 100. Canberra: AIHW
  2. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare and Australasian Association of Cancer Registries 2014. Cancer in Australia: in brief 2014. Cancer series no. 91. Cat. no. CAN 89. Canberra: AIHW
  3. Cancer Council Australia. National Cancer Prevention Policy. Last updated 15 April 2015. Available from: Accessed: 6 Jan 2017


To protect confidentiality the following data have been suppressed:

  • all data where there are fewer than five events in an area; however, where there were no cases, zero is shown
  • rates/ratios where there are from five to nine events in an area, though the number itself is shown

Due to errors in geographical coding in the data provided to PHIDU, cells for many Population Health Areas (PHAs) and Local Government Areas (LGAs) in Queensland previously published have been suppressed in this release; in addition, the Remoteness Area and Monitoring Inequality graphs for Queensland and Australia were affected by these errors and have been removed.

As an example of the coding error, the PHA of Maryborough/Tinana in Queensland, with a female population of 12,438, was allocated no breast cancers (and a standardised ratio of zero) whereas the surrounding PHA of Burrum - Fraser/ Maryborough Region - South, with a female population of 10,243, was allocated 388 breast cancers (and a standardised ratio of 548, or 5.5 times the expected rate for an area with a female population with its age profile). When the data are corrected the standardised ratios will be revised. Unfortunately, it is not possible to get corrected data until the data to 2014 become available.

These data exclude all cases of basal cell carcinoma (BCC) of the skin and squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) of the skin.

Calculation of standardised rates of cancer incidence used age group data from the Australian Cancer Database (ACD) 2012, maintained by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW). The following data were not available in time for inclusion in the 2012 ACD: (1) 2009 provisional death-certificate-only (DCO) data for NSW and ACT; (2) 2010 provisional DCO data for ACT. In order to be able to present national data for these years the AIHW calculated estimates for these missing data. For details, see the data quality statement at

The standardised rates presented will differ from those available on the AIHW website. The AIHW calculated directly age-standardised rates using the 2001 Australian Standard Population, compared to the indirectly age-standardised rates herein that were calculated using the Estimated Resident Population for 2006 through 2010. This is of particular relevance for rates for Primary Health Networks and the 'all cancer' rates for Population Health Areas.

Details of data presented

Separate data are presented for the following cancers at various geographic levels:

  Type of cancer  PHA LGA PHN Quintiles Remoteness
Male Prostate cancer Y Y Y Y Y
  Colorectal cancer  Y Y Y Y Y
  Melanoma of the skin  Y Y Y Y Y
  Lung cancer Y Y Y Y Y
  Head and neck cancer Y Y Y Y Y
  Lymphoma Y Y Y Y Y
  Leukaemia Y Y Y Y Y
  Bladder cancer Y Y Y Y Y
  Kidney cancer Y Y Y Y Y
  Pancreatic cancer N N Y Y Y
  Stomach cancer N N Y Y Y
  All other cancers N N Y Y Y
  All cancers N N Y Y Y
Female Breast cancer Y Y Y Y Y
  Colorectal cancer Y Y Y Y Y
  Melanoma of the skin Y Y Y Y Y
  Lung cancer Y Y Y Y Y
  Uterine cancer Y Y Y Y Y
  Lymphoma Y Y Y Y Y
  Thyroid cancer N N Y Y Y
  Ovarian cancer N N Y Y Y
  Leukaemia N N Y Y Y
  Pancreatic cancer N N Y Y Y
  All other cancers N N Y Y Y
  All cancers N N Y Y Y
Total Colorectal cancer Y Y Y Y Y
  Melanoma of the skin Y Y Y Y Y
  Lung cancer Y Y Y Y Y
  Lymphoma Y Y Y Y Y
  Leukaemia N N Y Y Y
  Pancreatic cancer N N Y Y Y
  All cancers Y N Y Y Y


PHA: Population Health Area;

LGA: Local Government Area;

PHN: Primary Health Network;

Quintiles: Quintiles of socioeconomic disadvantage (see;

Remoteness: Remoteness Areas of Australia (see

Additional data about these and other cancers are available from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare website, including at


Geography: Data available by Population Health Area, Local Government Area, Primary Health Network, Quintiles and Remoteness Areas


Numerator: Number of new cases of cancer, by type, among male / female / total population


Denominator: Male / female / total population


Detail of analysis: Indirectly age-standardised rate per 100,000 population; and/or indirectly age-standardised ratio, based on the Australian standard


Source: Compiled by PHIDU from an analysis by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) of the Australian Cancer Database (ACD) 2012. The ACD is compiled at the AIHW from cancer data provided by state and territory cancer registries: for further information on the ACD see 


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