Cancer Cases and Deaths in Canada Expected to Rise in 2024, But Incidence Rates Decline

Reported by Pushpa


This year, Canada is set to see a rise in both cancer cases and deaths due to a growing and aging population. However, there’s a silver lining: the overall rates of people being diagnosed with and dying from cancer are actually declining. This trend is detailed in a new study published by the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ).

The study estimates that 247,100 new cancer diagnoses and 88,100 cancer deaths will occur in 2024, up from 239,100 cases and 86,700 deaths in 2023. Dr. Darren Brenner, the study’s lead author and an epidemiologist at the University of Calgary, emphasized the significant impact of cancer on both people and the economy in Canada. He highlighted the importance of these estimates in guiding efforts to reduce this impact.

Cancer remains the leading cause of death in Canada, with two in five Canadians likely to be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime, and one in four expected to die from it. The CMAJ study, a collaborative effort between the Canadian Cancer Society, Statistics Canada, and the Public Health Agency of Canada, provides detailed estimates for cancer cases and deaths across 23 types of cancer by province or territory and sex.

The study utilized national data on cancer cases from 1984 to 2019 and cancer deaths from 1984 to 2020. Ioana Nicolau, a senior epidemiologist with the Canadian Cancer Society, stressed the importance of understanding the current burden of cancer to better allocate resources and improve prevention and screening efforts.

As the population ages, the number of new cancer cases and deaths is increasing. Lung cancer is expected to be the most diagnosed cancer in 2024, with 32,100 new cases, and remains the leading cause of cancer death. Breast, prostate, and colorectal cancers follow closely, accounting for nearly half of all new cancer cases.

Despite these increases, the overall incidence and mortality rates for cancer are projected to decrease slightly for both males and females, thanks to improvements in prevention, screening, and treatment. For example, lung cancer rates are declining due to reduced tobacco use, while organized screening programs have significantly decreased colorectal cancer rates.

However, the study also notes that incidence rates for less common cancers, such as liver, kidney, melanoma, and non-Hodgkin lymphoma, are expected to rise. Factors like alcohol consumption, obesity, diabetes, and high blood pressure contribute to these increases.

Regional differences in cancer mortality rates are also evident, with higher rates in eastern Canada compared to the west. Nicolau suggested that variations in risk factors, screening practices, and cancer diagnoses might explain these discrepancies.

For instance, breast cancer screening guidelines differ across provinces, with some starting at age 40 and others at age 50. The Canadian Cancer Society recently urged all provinces and territories to begin screening at age 40 for those at average risk.

In an editorial related to the study, Dr. Keerat Grewal and Dr. Catherine Varner highlighted the issue of cancer diagnoses often occurring in emergency departments, reflecting inadequate primary care pathways. They called for better access to outpatient clinics and more support for patients discharged from emergency rooms.

Nicolau concluded by stressing the importance of increasing participation in cancer screening programs to make a significant impact in the long term.

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