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Cancer Facts & Stats

Understanding Cancer

The current statistics indicate that each Canadian has a greater than 1 in 3 chance of developing cancer in their lifetime, so this disease affects us all.
Cancer is a global problem…and also a very personal problem for every patient who hears the words “You have cancer”. Cancer is the uncontrolled growth and spread of cells. It can affect almost any part of the body, invade surrounding tissue and move – or metastasize – to different sites.
Cancer is no longer the great mystery it once was. We now know that cancer is a disease of our genes caused by mutations (or changes) in genes and/or how genes are regulated. We know that the immune system tries – but often fails – to control cancer. We have developed technologies to help us find cancers earlier because we know that, if detected early, many cancers can be completely eradicated with surgery, radiotherapy, and.or chemotherapy.
Cancer, of course, remains an extremely complex disease. It is able to adapt to changing conditions. That is why we need to look at new ways of combining existing therapies and discover new approaches, such as immune therapy, to add to our arsenal. We need to consider the unique characteristics and needs of each patient and personalize treatment and support accordingly.

Cancer Statistics

Cancer is the leading cause of death in Canada. An estimated 1 out of every 4 Canadians is expected to die from cancer.
Trends in cancer for 2013 indicate that:
  • An estimated 187,600 new cases of cancer and 75,500 deaths from cancer will occur.
  • 41% of Canadian women and 46% of men will develop cancer during their lifetimes.
  • On average, over 500 Canadians will be diagnosed with cancer every day.
  • On average, over 200 Canadians will die from cancer every day.
Cancer can occur at any age, although it primarily affects Canadians aged 50 and older.
Cancer is responsible for more deaths worldwide than AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis combined.
Lung, prostate, breast and colorectal cancer are the four most common cancer types in Canada (excluding non-melanoma skin cancer).
The 5-year survival rate for lung cancer is still stubbornly low (17%).
  • Since it peaked in the late 1980s, the lung cancer death rate has been steadily decreasing for men.
  • The incidence rate in women is still rising.
The 5-year survival rate for colorectal cancer is average (65%) in comparison to other cancer types.
  • Since 2000, death rates have been declining for women.
  • Since 2004, death rates have been declining for men.

The 5-year survival rate is high for prostate cancer (96%).
  • Since the mid-1990s, the death rate has been declining.

The 5-year survival rate is high for breast cancer (88%).
  • Since the mid-1980s, death rates have gone down in every age group.

The survival rate increased seven percentage points from 56% to 63% for all cancers combined between 1992-1994 and 2006-2008.
Statistics from Canadian Cancer Society
Statistics from


Next Steps

There is a revolution happening in cancer research, and it is called Personalized Cancer Medicine. Top cancer research centres like The Princess Margaret are leading the way, translating new understanding gained in the laboratory into more effective treatments for patients worldwide.