Cancer statistics

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Western Australian cancer statistics

Cancer is a leading cause of death in Western Australia, accounting for around 3 in every 10 deaths.

In 2017, there were 13,361 new cases of cancer diagnosed in Western Australia. More men than women were diagnosed with cancer; 7,379 cases in men (55%) and 5,982 cases in women (45%).

In 2017 there were 4,147 deaths from cancer In Western Australia. The most common causes of cancer-related death in men were from lung, prostate and bowel cancer; and for women were lung, breast and bowel cancer.

For more information about cancer statistics in WA, see our Western Australian Cancer Statistics factsheet (pdf 328kb).


The number of cancer cases in general, is likely to continue to rise. This is largely due to:

  • Population growth
  • The ageing of the population
  • Improved early detection methods for some cancers. 

Western Australian Aboriginal cancer statistics

Cancer is the second leading cause of death in Aboriginal Australians.

In 2009-2013, there were 175 new cases of cancer diagnosed in Aboriginal Western Australians. Slightly more women than men were diagnosed with cancer; 93 cases in women or 53% and 82 cases in men or 47%.

In 2009-2013 there were 83 deaths from cancer in Aboriginal Western Australians. The most common causes of cancer-related death in men were from lung and liver cancers; and for women were lung and breast cancers.

For more information about cancer statistics in Aboriginal Western Australians, see our Cancer in Aboriginal people fact sheet (pdf 310kb)

Skin cancer statistics

  • Skin cancer is the most common cancer in Australia. Only melanoma cases have to be reported to the Cancer Registry
  • More than 83,151 skin cancers were treated in WA in 2014
  • Higher rates of melanoma deaths among men are most likely due to late detection and poorer outcomes from more advanced disease
  • Death rates from melanoma are remaining constant at relatively low levels due to early detection

For more information about skin cancer statistics, see our Western Australia Skin Cancer Statistics factsheet (pdf 755kb).

Learn more about skin cancer 

Bowel (colorectal) cancer statistics

  • If found early, up to 90% of bowel cancer cases can be successfully treated
  • Bowel cancer is the second most common cancer diagnosed  in both Western Australian men and women.

For more information about bowel cancer statistics, see our Western Australian Bowel Cancer Statistics factsheet (pdf 306kb).

Learn more about bowel cancer.

Lung cancer statistics 

  • Smoking is the major cause of lung cancer.
  • There has been a steady decline in the age-standardised rate of deaths and new cases of lung cancer among men and a continuing increase in the rate of cases among women.
  • Overall the rates of lung cancer are still higher for men. In general lung cancer has a poor prognosis.
  • Current patterns of lung cancer incidence (new cases) reflect smoking behaviour 20 years ago.

For more information about lung cancer statistics, see our Western Australian Lung Cancer Statistics factsheet (pdf 356kb).

Prostate cancer statistics

  • Prostate cancer is the most common cancer for males and the second most common cause of male cancer death, after lung cancer.

For more information about prostate cancer statistics, see our Western Australian Prostate Cancer Statistics factsheet (pdf 330kb).

Learn more about prostate cancer.

Breast cancer statistics

  • Increased incidence is likely to be due to the increased early detection, (especially through mammographic screening), increased population size and also to an ageing population.
  • The number of deaths has remained relatively constant showing better treatment outcomes when cancer is found earlier.

For more information about breast cancer statistics, see our Western Australian Breast Cancer Statistics factsheet (pdf 394kb).

Learn more about breast cancer.

Liver cancer statistics

  • Liver cancer is much more common in men than women, and more men die from liver cancer than women.
  • Although incidence is low, the mortality rate for liver cancer is quite high.
  • Liver cancer is the fastest increasing cause of cancer death in Australia.
  • Long term (chronic) infection with hepatitis B virus accounts for 60-80% of primary liver cancers.

For more information about liver cancer statistics, see our Western Australian Liver Cancer Statistics factsheet (pdf 328kb)

Cervical cancer statistics

  • The incidence rate of cervical cancer has significantly decreased among Western Australian women since 1982 largely due to a national screening programme that was introduced in 1991.
  • The HPV vaccination and regular cervical cancer screening can help to prevent the development of cervical cancer.
  • Cervical cancer can be effectively treated when it is found early. In Australia, the five year survival rate for women diagnosed with cervical cancer is 74%.

For more information about cervical cancer statistics, see our Western Australia Cervical Cancer factsheet (pdf 527kb)

Mesothelioma statistics

  • Mesothelioma is a rare cancer that develops in the lining of the lungs, abdomen, heart and testicles.
  • It is most commonly caused by exposure to asbestos fibres (about 90 per cent of cases).
  • Australia has one of the highest incidence rates of malignant mesothelioma in the world.
  • Five-year survival rates for mesothelioma is 8%

For more information about mesothelioma statistics, see our Western Australia Mesothelioma Statistics factsheet (pdf 669kb).

Cancer risk statistics

Risk is the chance of developing a disease. This is calculated as the risk, up to age 75 years, of developing cancer. The risk of developing any form of cancer is 1 in 4 women, and 1 in 3 men. The risk for the most common cancers are listed below:

  Men Women
Prostate 1 in 8
Breast -- 1 in 10
Bowel 1 in 26
1 in 33
Melanoma 1 in 21 1 in 30
Lung 1 in 31 1 in 39

Cancer and age statistics

What is an age standardised rate or ASR?
Australia has an ageing population. This is because of two things; we are living longer (life expectancy has increased) and on average Australians are having fewer children. With fewer babies being born, and more people living longer, the percentage or proportion of older Australians in the general population is increasing, and the risk of being diagnosed with or dying from cancer generally increases with age. Because of this, if we want to compare incidence and mortality rates of cancer today with previous years or look at trends in cancer rates over time periods (eg how many cancers were diagnosed in 1970 compared to 2000) we must take into account this ageing population. This is what the age standardised rate does and is why we use it to look at trends over time rather than comparing the actual numbers.
Common cancer sites for different age groups are shown below:

Age group

Common cancer types/sites

15 - 39

Malignant melanoma, breast, testis, lymphoma and thyroid.

40 - 64

Breast , prostate, melanoma, bowel and lung.

65 plus

Prostate, bowel, melanoma, lung and breast.


  • Australian Institute of Health and Welfare & Australasian Association of Cancer Registries 2014. Cancer in Australia: an overview, 2014. Cancer series no. 90. Cat. no. CAN 88. Canberra: AIHW.
  • Fransen, M., et al., Non-melanoma skin cancer in Australia. Medical Journal of Australia, 2012. 197(10): p. 566-568.
  • Department of Health. (2020). Cancer incidence, mortality and survival in Western Australia,
    2017. Information and Performance Governance Directorate. Department of Health, Perth.
    Statistical Series Number 112. Available from:
  • Threlfall TJ, Brameld K. Cancer survival in Western Australian residents, 1982-1997. Health Department of Western Australia, Perth, 2000. Statistical series number 60.