Cancer Council Victoria CEO Todd Harper. Picture courtesy Cancer Council Victoria.

NEW data has revealed that one Victorian is diagnosed with cancer every 15 minutes, resulting in 95 new diagnoses each day. 

The numbers of cancers diagnosed has increased by three percent annually, mostly due to the growth and ageing of the Victorian population. 

The data was published by the Victorian Cancer Registry as part of its publication ‘Cancer in Victoria: Statistics and Trends 2017’, which contains the world’s most up-to-date cancer incidence and mortality information.

The report revealed melanoma incidence rates are decreasing in all younger Victorians, with the rate of disease now only increasing in Victorians aged over 60. 

This trend is thought to be reflective of the impact of SunSmart campaigns and initiatives in improving sun behaviours and early detection since SunSmart started in the early 1980s.

The report shows that the most common areas of the body diagnosed with melanoma differs greatly between men and women reflecting different recreational sun exposure patterns. 

Thirty percent of invasive melanomas diagnosed in women were on their lower limbs and 29 percent on their upper limbs, compared to men who had 36 percent of melanomas diagnosed on the trunk of their body and 19 percent diagnosed on their upper limbs. 

Cancer Council Victoria CEO, Todd Harper, PICTURED, encouraged Victorians not to be complacent when it comes to being SunSmart. 

“Most skin cancer can be prevented by using good sun protection, and it’s never too late to improve your sun protection habits, no matter if you are six months or 60-years-old,” he said.

Almost 3000 Victorians were diagnosed with invasive melanoma in 2017, making it the fourth most common cancer, and accounting for nine percent of all cancer diagnoses. Overall survival from melanoma, however, has increased from 85 percent to 90 percent over the past 30 years. 

Mr Harper said the data shows men have both a higher incidence and mortality rate for melanoma in Victoria. 

“At 50 years of age, incidence rates are almost equal, but thereafter male rates increase more rapidly to twice those of females by age 80,” Mr Harper said. 

“The good news is people are getting better about seeing their doctor quickly when they notice a spot that’s not quite right, and as a result we are seeing more melanomas diagnosed at an earlier stage in both men and women, improving outcomes and survival.”

Victorian Cancer Registry Director, Helen Farrugia, said that the report showed that thicker melanoma lesions have poorer five-year survival compared with thin lesions. 

“For melanoma lesions that are diagnosed less than one millimetre, the survival rate is now 100 percent,” she said. “However, survival drops to 58 percent for melanoma tumors that are diagnosed later at a thickness of greater than four millimetres.

“This further reinforces the need to get to know your skin and go to the doctor straight away if you notice any new or changing spots.” 

Ms Farrugia said although incidence of melanoma is lower for Aboriginal and migrant Victorians, melanoma is diagnosed later for these groups than for other Victorians. 

Statistics also reveal that:

• The five most common cancers in Victoria are prostate, breast, bowel, melanoma and lung, collectively accounting for 57 percent of all new cancers and 46 percent of all cancer deaths.

• Cervical cancer rates declined rapidly following the introduction of the Pap screening program – now the majority of abnormalities are detected prior to progressing to an invasive cancer, and that cervix cancer rates are stable.

• Overall cancer survival continues to improve across the State. The latest five-year cancer survival is 68 percent – a statistically significant increase from 66 percent in 2007-2011.

• Cancers with the lowest survival remain liver (21 percent), lung (19 percent), cancer of unknown primary (12 percent), pancreas (10 percent) and mesothelioma (six percent).

• In 2017, cancer deaths in Victoria were responsible for the premature loss of nearly 60,000 years of life. This is more than four times the loss compared with other major causes of death.

“Sadly, last year we lost another 10,955 Victorians to cancer,” Mr Harper said. “We must continue to work on finding new and improved ways to detect, treat and prevent cancer, while continuing to support those affected.

“With more Victorians being diagnosed with cancer each year, and people surviving longer after a cancer diagnosis, it is important that we are here to support them while they deal with the long-term effects of cancer and adjust to their ‘new normal’.”

To read the publication visit www.cancervic.org.au/cancer-in-victoria.