Notes on the data: Premature mortality by selected cause - 0 to 74 years

Deaths from cancer, persons aged 0 to 74 years, 2013 to 2017


Policy context:  The leading cause of premature mortality in Australia is cancer. Cancer is a general term used to describe the group of diseases where cells grow in an uncontrolled and purposeless way inside the body [1]. Some cancers can be cured, others can be controlled by medical treatment and some are diagnosed too late for medical treatment to be effective. Although the causes of many cancers are not fully understood, some of the factors that place people at greater risk of developing cancer are well recognised. They include: biomedical factors (e.g., genetic susceptibility, hormonal factors), behavioural factors (e.g., smoking - cause of around 20-30% of all cancers, alcohol consumption, physical inactivity and obesity, chronic infections, diet) and environmental factors (e.g., sunlight, radiation, occupational exposures, pollution) [2]. Some risk factors cannot be changed while others, especially those related to behaviours, are modifiable. The risk of many cancers increases as people age.

From 1968 to 2016, age-standardised mortality rates for all cancers combined decreased from 213.1 per 100,000 population in 1994 to 160.0 per 100,000 in 2016 [3]. Decreases were also evident for most cancer types, with notable exceptions including brain cancer, liver cancer, rectal cancer, and lung cancer in females [3]. The rate for males increased from 258.3 per 100,000 males in 1968 to 287.1 per 100,000 males in 1989, was relatively stable to 1994, from when it decreased markedly to 198.9 per 100,000 males in 2016, although that was some 54.5% above the female rate [3]. Rates for females were relatively flat from 1968 to 1996, before decreasing to 128.7 per 100,000 females in 2016.

Socioeconomic disparities are evident in both cancer incidence and mortality. Australians living in areas of lower socioeconomic status (SES) had higher rates of cancer-related mortality than those in higher SES areas over the period 2003-2007, while cancer incidence varied more by cancer type [2]. For example, in South Australia (1977-2001), the incidence of cancer was higher in males in low SES areas, whereas the reverse was noted for females [4]. Higher cancer rates in males in low SES areas were observed for cancers of the lip, mouth (minus lip), throat, oesophagus, stomach, gallbladder, larynx and lung; whereas for females, there were higher rates in high SES areas for cancers of the breast, colon and skin cancer (melanoma) [4].

The data show that for 2013 to 2017 almost half (48.2%) of all deaths from cancer were premature – details here.


  1. Cancer Council Australia (CCA). About cancer: FAQ [Internet]. Available from:
  2. ; last accessed 18 October 2013.
  3. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) & Australasian Association of Cancer Registries (AACR). Cancer in Australia 2010: an overview. Cancer series no. 60. (AIHW Cat. no. CAN 56). Canberra: AIHW; 2010.
  4. Cancer mortality, National Cancer Control Indicators. Available from:; last accessed 30 January 2020.
  5. Cancer Council SA (CCSA). Statistics: all cancers. Adelaide; CCSA; 2009.

Notes:  International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems 10th Revision (ICD-10) codes: C00-D48

For deaths data released since 2007, the ABS has applied a staged approach to the coding of cause of death which affects the number of records available for release at any date. In each release, the latest year’s data is preliminary, the second latest is revised and the data for the remaining years is final. For further information about the ABS revisions process see the following and related sites:


Geography: Data available by Population Health Area, Local Government Area, Primary Health Network, quintile of socioeconomic disadvantage of area and Remoteness Area


Numerator:  Deaths from cancer at ages 0 to 74 years


Detail of analysis:  Average annual indirectly age-standardised rate per 100,000 population (aged 0 to 74 years); and/or indirectly age-standardised ratio, based on the Australian standard.


Source:  Data compiled by PHIDU from deaths data based on the 2013 to 2017 Cause of Death Unit Record Files supplied by the Australian Coordinating Registry and the Victorian Department of Justice, on behalf of the Registries of Births, Deaths and Marriages and the National Coronial Information System. The population is the ABS Estimated Resident Population (ERP) for Australia, 30 June 2013 to 30 June 2017.


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