Background: Cancer, along with other chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease, is recognised as one of the most common public health threats in Australia. This burden and financial cost to the community will continue to increase given Australia’s increasing and aging population.
Method: We estimated the total number of cancers that would be diagnosed in Australia in 2025 by applying published age- and sex-specific population projections to current incidence rates, and applied published attributable fraction estimates to calculate the number of preventable cancers in future years.
Results: These calculations suggested that there will be about 170,000 new cancers diagnosed in 2025 in Australia, representing more than a 50% increase in the number of cancers diagnosed in 2008. Given only about 5-10% of cancers are caused by generic or inherited disorders, there is obvious potential for the role of prevention in reducing this burden. It was estimated that about 10,050 colorectal cancers, 7,250 female breast cancers and 5,700 lung cancers could be prevented in 2025 alone by changes in nutrition and physical activity. Further prevention is possible through reducing the prevalence of other known risk factors such as tobacco smoking, alcohol, harmful occupation and sun exposure. Combined this equates to preventing about 57,000 cancer diagnosed in 2025 alone.
Conclusions: While we have witnessed significant declines in the prevalence of tobacco smoking, there is little evidence that there have been any significant reductions in the prevalence of other known behavioural risk factors such as sedentary behaviour, obesity and poor diet. Clearly, the need for large-scale and long-term preventive strategies mean that it is imperative that governments at all levels, along with clinicians and researchers, act now with vigour if we are going to have any impact on reducing the significant human and financial burden of cancer in to the future.