Across the 2015-16 reporting period Cancer Council Australia has continued its important national leadership role in cancer control.
Setting the prevention agenda has been a high priority in 2015-16, culminating in the release of the first Australian research on the proportion of cancer cases in Australia that are preventable. The report, published in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health, found that of the more than 120,000 cancer cases diagnosed each year in Australia, approximately 37,000 are preventable.
Tobacco remains the leading preventable cause of cancer in Australia, contributing over 15,000 cases per annum. While it is rewarding to see the positive impact that tobacco control measures such as plain packaging and ongoing excise increases are having, we continue to call on Governments to invest in programs to reach those with the highest smoking rates.
Excess UV exposure is the second most important risk factor for cancer in Australia, causing over 7,000 melanomas per year. In addition, skin cancer (including non-melanoma skin cancer), a largely preventable cancer, is estimated to cost the Australian health system $1 billion per year. Cancer Council continues to call for investment by Government in a national skin cancer awareness program. At the same time we continue to encourage the Australian Government to invest in preventable health initiatives that will help reduce the increasing impact that obesity, alcohol, poor diet and physical activity are having on Australian cancer trends. Progress has been made in areas like clearer food labelling to guide informed consumer choices. But government needs to do more, such as addressing anomalies in the Health Star Rating label system and mandating its use and supporting a range of other measures to encourage improved nutrition and physical activity.
Reducing cancer mortality is our first priority. Early detection of cancer and precancerous conditions is a key. Of the three cancers covered by national screening programs, bowel cancer screening has the biggest potential to save lives. Our estimates show that 84,000 cancers will be prevented if we can lift the current 40 percent screening rate to 60 percent by the year 2020 and beyond. Awareness of bowel cancer screening remains low, and Cancer Council calls on the government to invest in public awareness programs.
Cancer continues to be a significant burden in Australia - in terms of premature mortality, impact on peoples' lives and on the costs of our health system. The rising costs of new cancer therapies will continue to challenge the capacity of our system to meet these demands. There is also an emerging acknowledgement that there is a gap in outcomes between those with the most resources and those with the least, forcing attention to inequalities. Clinical variation is also recognised as impacting on differences in cancer outcomes, with these differences largely related to health system issues.
The challenge for Cancer Council Australia is to continue its excellent advocacy and policy work in prevention and screening while expanding its remit to promote quality cancer treatment and care for all, arming our members with the tools needed for an evidence-based advocacy plan relevant to Australian and State/Territory Governments.
This page was last updated on: Thursday, October 20, 2016