Every 29 seconds someone in the world will find out they have cancer.

Since 2007 Tour de Cure has raised over $30 million for cancer research, support and prevention projects.

Cancer does not discriminate. Here are some real facts about cancer and what you can do to prevent it.

So what is cancer?

Cancer is the leading cause of premature death in Australia. It is not one illness but can affect us in more than 100 different illnesses. You will have heard of many of the common forms such as breast cancer or lung cancer, but there are many more.

It is called cancer when the normal functions of the cells in your body go wrong. In particular when they start to grow and reproduce too quickly, or do not die when they are normally supposed to.

This can occur for a number of reasons. The cells are damaged, the cell mutates due to exposure to toxic substances, or maybe an infection.

As the cells multiply they form a clump of abnormal cells. This is called a tumour. There are two types of tumours. Firstly when all the cells stay together in one place and do not break away. This is called a benign tumour.

More commonly, the abnormal cells break away from the original tumour and travel around the body in the blood stream. They are then able to lodge themselves in new places and start to reproduce clumps of cells as well. These are called malignant tumours.

The new sites where cells start to create new clumps of cancer cells are called metastases.

It is the malignant tumour that can cause real problems, and if not treated early enough it may become life threatening.


Cancer statistics in Australia

(Cancer Council Australia)

  • An estimated 128,000 new cases of cancer will be diagnosed in Australia per year, with that number set to rise to 150,000 by 2020.
  • 1 in 2 Australian men and 1 in 3 Australian women will be diagnosed with cancer by the age of 85.
  • Cancer is a leading cause of death in Australia – more than 43,200 people died from cancer in 2011. Cancer accounted for about 3 in 10 deaths in Australia.
  • Around 19,000 more people die each year from cancer than 30 years ago, this is due mainly to population growth and aging.  However, the death rate (number of deaths per 100,000 people) has fallen by more than 16%.
  • 66% of people diagnosed with cancer in Australia are still alive five years after diagnosis.
  • The most common cancers in Australia (excluding non-melanoma skin cancer) are prostate, colorectal (bowel), breast, melanoma and lung cancer. These five cancers account for over 60% of all cancers diagnosed in Australia
  • Over 434,000 people are treated for one or more non-melanoma skin cancers each year.
  • Cancer costs more than $4.5 billion in direct health system costs (6.9%).     

Cancer fact

There are a number of chemical, physical and biological agenct that have been shown to trigger the mistakes in the cell blueprint that cause cancer. These are called carcinogens and include tobacco, ultraviolent radiation and asbestos.


Kids with Cancer

500 kids are diagnosed each year. The most common cancers in children are:

  • Leukaemia (cancer of the blood)
  • Brain cancers
  • Cancer in the central nervous system


Almost 9 out of 10 children diagnosed with cancer are effectively treated and go on to live normal lives.


There is good news:

  • 60% of cancers can be treated successfully hence 60% of cancer deaths are preventable*
  • Survivial rates have improved by 20% over the last 10 years and continue to improve all the time
  • 80% of people with breast or prostate cancer survive more than five years after diagnosis


Can I do something to prevent getting cancer?

Yes! One in three cancer cases can be prevented.** The things you can do include:

  • A well balanced diet including fruit and vegetables
  • Limit the intake of high fat animal proteins (red meat)
  • Avoid smoking or exposure to second hand smoke
  • Avoid unprotected exposure to the sun
  • Moderation in alcohol consumption
  • Exercise for 30 minutes a day at least 5 times a week
  • Know your family history
  • Practice safe sex if outside a commited relationship
  • Avoid exposure to toxic chemicals
  • Regular self examinations; and
  • Talk to your doctor about a regular check up


How can I get checked?

A regular screening habit will help catch any signs of cancer early. The earlier you detect it the better your chances of beating it.

For Women

Breast Screen Australia
  • Women over 40 can attend
  • Commonwealth funded mammograms
  • 500 locations plus mobile units
  • Email: cancerscreening@health.gov.au
  • Phone: 13 20 50 (local call cost)
National Cervical Screening Programme
  • For women from 18-70 years of age
  • Funded screening
  • Pap smears at least every two years
  • Vaccination of girls 9-26 years of age
  • Email: cancerscreening@health.gov.au
  • Phone: 13 15 56 (local call cost)

For Men

Prostate Screening
  • For men over 50 years and a family history
  • An annual examination
  • PSA testing
  • Contact Cancer Helpline: 13 11 20
  • Email: cancerscreening@health.gov.au
  • Phone: 1800 118 868 


For Men and Women

Colorectal Cancer
  • For men and women turning 50, 55 or 65 years between 2008 and 2010
  • Free screening programme - Faecal Occult Blood Test done at home
  • Discuss with your doctor
  • Email: bowelscreen@medicareaustralia.gov.au



* John Seffrin, chief executive officer of the American Cancer Society http://www.usatoday.com/news/health/2009-08-23-lance_N.htm
** Cancer Council Australia