Cancer Council is committed to driving change to national policy and practice that will improve cancer prevention, detection, treatment and patient care. We develop, promote and advocate for evidence-based policy, programs, education campaigns and resources across the cancer control spectrum.
In 2015-16, we focused on evidence-based actions and development and advocacy of policy targeted at areas where there is greatest potential to improve cancer prevention, early detection, treatment and supportive care.
Actions and achievements in relation to our public health priorities in 2015-16 are detailed in the subsections:
- Cancer screening and immunisation
- Tobacco control
- Nutrition and physical activity
- Skin cancer prevention
- Occupational cancers
- Primary care
Our Public Health Committee and its subcommittees provide expert advice and develop evidence-based policy and actions related to each of these areas.
Priority actions to improve cancer management and supportive care for all Australians affected by cancer are guided by our multidisciplinary Supportive Care Committee and its subcommittees, as well as our Clinical Guidelines Network and Oncology Education Committee.
Our key activities aimed at improving cancer management and supportive care in 2015-16 are outlined in:
Contributions to national cancer control data and policy
Ground-breaking analysis of cancer causes
Understanding the proportion of cancers that are due to different causes is essential to developing cancer prevention policy and informing people about changes to reduce their individual risk.
In October 2015 Cancer Council released ground-breaking research that showed around 37,000 Australian cancer cases (around one in three) each year could be prevented largely through lifestyle changes.
The first study of cancer incidence and preventable causes in Australia, funded by Cancer Council Australia and conducted by the Queensland Berghofer Medical Research Institute, showed that one in three cancers in Australia could be prevented. It showed that 90 percent of all preventable cancers are attributable to just six risk factors: smoking, UV radiation, poor diet, overweight, physical inactivity and alcohol.
The study provided further data to support our advocacy and recommendations for individual lifestyle changes to reduce cancer risk. While the association between cancer and smoking is well established, this study showed that 7000 new cancer cases in Australia each year are attributable to low fruit and vegetable intake, low fibre intake and eating excess red meat. About 3900 cancer cases each year are due to obesity, and 3200 are caused by alcohol.
Cancer mortality projections show gains, and gaps
National data released in 2015 showed that cancer death rates in Australia are continuing to fall, but not quickly enough, according to Cancer Council Australia.
The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare projections, published in July 2015, were based on trends showing a steady decrease in cancer deaths since the late 1960s, with a steeper drop from the late 1990s.
We noted the positive trend, with thousands of cancers that would have caused death a generation ago now being prevented, detected early and successfully treated. However the data and projections for specific tumours also showed where more action was needed, with little decline in death rates for cancers such as brain and pancreas.
We also emphasised the importance of continued focus on preventing cancer and caring and supporting for the 120,000 Australians diagnosed with cancer each year.
National cancer data and policy
Throughout the year, we monitored and acknowledged Commonwealth Government policy and fiscal measures that will reduce the cancer burden in Australia.
In May 2016, Cancer Council welcomed measures in the 2016-17 federal budget aimed at improving cancer outcomes. By Cancer Council’s estimates, the commitment to increase tobacco tax alone is expected to translate to tens of thousands of cancer deaths avoided – through 320,000 smokers quitting and 40,000 teenagers being deterred from the habit. Read more about the impact of excise increases in Tobacco control.
We also welcomed the government’s commitments to support cancer screening registries, subsidise medicines for breast and prostate cancer and melanoma, trial Health Care Homes, and continue promotion of the Health Star Rating food labelling system. But we also noted the need for greater investment and policy work in the areas targeted by these measures over the longer term.
‘Cancers in Australia in 2010 attributable to modifiable factors’ was published as a series of articles (open access) in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health in October 2015: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/azph.2015.39.issue-5/issuetoc
This page was last updated on: Monday, October 24, 2016