TORONTO – The annual number of new cancer diagnoses in Canada will increase by 40 per cent by 2030, the Canadian Cancer Society predicted in a report released Wednesday.
At first blush that projection seems alarming.
But the cancer society was quick to point out that demographics will fuel the increase, not a heightened risk in developing the disease.
Most cancers are diagnosed in people who are between the ages of 50 and 79 and the massive baby boom generation is now squarely there. As well, the projected growth of Canada’s population will contribute to the increase in numbers of cancer cases.
“This is about: Canadians are living longer,” said Robert Nuttall, the cancer society’s assistant director for cancer control policy.
“The population is aging and it’s growing. And overall this is going to add to the sheer volume of cancer patients being diagnosed in Canada. But that overall risk, that proportion of Canadians who are diagnosed, isn’t going to change over this period.”
Neither will the risk of dying from cancer, according to the predictions. Improvements in treatments and screening programs that lead to early diagnosis of some forms of cancer have resulted in a steady decline in the percentage of cancer cases that are fatal.
Given that the projections don’t anticipate a rise in individual risk, should Canadians be worried about the estimates? Dr. Eva Grunfeld, a physician scientist with the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research, said concern should focus on whether the country’s health-care systems will be ready to cope with all the additional cases.
“You as an individual, your risk might not have changed. But you want to know that … when and if you develop cancer, you’re going to be able to have access to your family doctor in order to discuss the symptoms, start to have your diagnostic work-up as quickly as possible, get your treatment and move into the survivorship phase as quickly as possible,” said Grunfeld, who was not involved in the preparation of the report.
“If we’re not ready it will be a very, very problematic situation.”
That is the message the cancer society is trying to get out through the release of this report, which was prepared in collaboration with the Public Health Agency of Canada and Statistics Canada.
“We need to start investing now,” said Nuttall.
“Our organization has been involved in cancer control for more than 75 years now and what we really want to be looking at is: How do we deliver the programs and services to these people?”
The projections were part of the cancer society’s annual estimates of case numbers for the year.
It estimates there will be 196,900 new cases of cancer diagnosed in 2015, and about half will be for prostate, breast, lung and colorectal cancers.
The society also estimates 78,000 Canadians will die from cancer this year.
The biggest portion of new cancer cases — 28 per cent — will be diagnosed in people aged 60 to 69, while the highest proportion of cancer deaths — a third — will be in people aged 80 and older.
The report predicts that by 2030, prostate cancer will be the most commonly diagnosed cancer in Canada and the volume of annual cases will have increased by 97 per cent.
The total number of female breast cancer cases is expected to rise by 55 per cent over that 25-year period and the number of colorectal cancer patients will increase by 79 per cent. The number of lung cancer cases in 2030 will be 46 per cent higher than the 2005 figure.