Cancer claims fewer Canadian lives

The death toll cancer takes in Canada is on the decline, fuelled in large part by the fact that lung cancer is killing fewer Canadian men than it did in earlier decades, the Canadian Cancer Society said Wednesday.

TORONTO, Ont. — The death toll cancer takes in Canada is on the decline, fuelled in large part by the fact that lung cancer is killing fewer Canadian men than it did in earlier decades, the Canadian Cancer Society said Wednesday.

In its annual report on cancer in Canada, the agency estimated that close to 100,000 lives have been saved in this country over the past 20 years because of the declining cancer death rate.

In part that is due to improved cancer survival rates.

There have been advances in treatments for several types of cancer, meaning more Canadians are surviving prostate, breast and colorectal cancer as well as for non-Hodgkin lymphoma, said Gillian Bromfield, the cancer society’s director of cancer control policy.

But the biggest factor in the lowering of the death rate is not cancer survival, it’s cancer prevention. Fewer men have developed lung cancer in recent years because more men either stopped smoking or never picked up the habit.

That trend started decades ago and the benefits are being seen now.

“That has been one of the main drivers in that overall drop in death rates,” Bromfield said in an interview.

“It’s just sort of clear that the overall death rate has really followed the trend in men’s lung cancer death rate.”

That said, lung cancer is still the No. 1 cancer killer of men and women in Canada.

The Cancer Society estimates it kills 37,000 Canadians each year.

“So despite all the progress that we’ve made in terms of tobacco control and despite seeing decreases in incidence mortality in men, lung cancer still has a huge impact on Canadians. And that’s something we hope to change,” Bromfield said.

The tide on smoking turned for Canadian men in the 1960s.

From a peak of 61 per cent in 1965, the rate of men who smoke dropped to 20 per cent in 2010.

But the trend towards kicking the habit was slower to start among Canadian women.

The Canadian Cancer Society said it was another two decades before the smoking rate among Canadian women started to drop in the same way as it had in men.

By 2010, only 14 per cent of Canadian women smoked.

The delay means it will be awhile before Canada sees the same type of decline in lung cancer deaths among women that it is seeing among men, said Bromfield, who noted the incidence of the disease in women — the new cases found every year — has started to stabilize.

“So hopefully that means we’ll start to see the declines in incidence and therefore the declines in the death rate as well,” she said.

Between 1988 and 2007, overall cancer death rates dropped by 21 per cent in men and nine per cent in women.

The cancer society is pushing for more tobacco control measures, hoping to emulate jurisdictions like California where the smoking rates are lower than they are in Canada.

The decline in cancer death rates has been seen elsewhere.

Earlier this spring health agencies in the United States reported that death rates there between 2004 and 2008 continued to decline among men, women and children who had been diagnosed with cancer.

Despite the gains, there are concerns among health officials that the rising rates of obesity and inactivity may undo some of the progress attributed to the anti-tobacco campaigns.

“Certainly if we aren’t conscious of those risk factors that we know quite well, and those ones that we know for certain contribute to increasing cancer risk, we will see some backsliding even if we continue to make progress in terms of tobacco control,” Bromfield warned.

The cancer report estimates that 186,400 new cases of cancer will be diagnosed in Canada in 2012 and 75,700 Canadians will die from the disease. Almost 70 per cent of the new cancer cases will be found in Canadians aged 50 to 79.

Prostate cancer remains the most commonly diagnosed cancer in Canadian men, while breast cancer continues to be the most commonly diagnosed cancer among women.

The incidence — new cases — of breast cancer has been declining, but the rate of deaths to breast cancers has dropped even more sharply, declining by almost 40 per cent since peaking in 1986.

In fact, the report said that the breast cancer death rate in Canada is the lowest it has been since 1950.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A 19-day trial has been set for June 2022 for Chase Freed, who is accused of shooting to death a shopper outside the southside Red Deer Walmart and firing shots at two other people in the parking lot. (File photo by Advocate staff)
Man who killed a shopper outside Red Deer Walmart in December 2019 to go to trial in 2022

Chase Freed charged with second-degree murder and two counts of attempted murder

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
All adult Albertans to be offered first dose of vaccine by end of June: Premier

Alberta’s premier says the province will be “back to normal” when 72… Continue reading

Black Press Media file photo
Alberta doctors say trust must be rebuilt after proposed new labour deal rejected

EDMONTON — The head of the Alberta Medical Association says many factors… Continue reading

Security and police block the entrance to GraceLife Church as a fence goes up around it near Edmonton on Wednesday April 7, 2021. The Alberta government has closed down and fenced off a church that has been charged with refusing to follow COVID-19 health rules. Alberta Health Services, in a statement, says GraceLife church will remain closed until it shows it will comply with public-health measures meant to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Expert says gathering outside Alberta church attended by many conspiracy theorists

SPRUCE GROVE, Alta. — An expert investigating hate groups says a weekend… Continue reading

Interior Health nurses administer Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccines to seniors and care aids in Kelowna on Tuesday, March 16. (Phil McLachlan/Kelowna Capital News)
Canada set to receive 1M Pfizer-BioNTech doses, Moderna playing catch-up

OTTAWA — The federal government is expecting Moderna to make good on… Continue reading

Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Bill Blair responds to a question during question period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on December 11, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Patrick Doyle
New regulator to stop sexual exploitation of children online: public safety minister

OTTAWA — Public Safety Minister Bill Blair says the government will introduce… Continue reading

Gordon Greenwood Elementary Grade 7 students were assigned to write about climate change. The Langley Advance Times is pleased to present a selection of their writings. (Sasha/Special to the Langley Advance Times)
Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions increased slightly in 2019: report

OTTAWA — A new report shows Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions increased slightly… Continue reading

Conservative leader Erin O'Toole holds a press conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, April 6, 2020. Top Tory leaders of past and present will speak with supporters today about what a conservative economic recovery from COVID-19 could look like. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
O’Toole to vote against Conservative MP’s private bill on ‘sex-selective abortion’

OTTAWA — Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole says he will vote against a… Continue reading

Eugene Kwon of Gratia Bakery and Cafe says the business will be relying on take out orders and a small patio. (Neil Corbett/The News)
Small business struggling amid COVID-19 pandemic looks for aid in Liberals’ budget

OTTAWA — A group representing thousands of the country’s small businesses says… Continue reading

Ron Howard is photographed at the "Inferno" film premiere on Oct. 25, 2016 in Los Angeles. (Buckner/Rex Shutterstock/Zuma Press/TNS)
Brothers Ron and Clint Howard have memoir coming in October

NEW YORK — Filmmaker-actor Ron Howard and actor Clint Howard, brothers, former… Continue reading

FILE - In this Saturday, March 27, 2021 file photo, Buffalo Sabres’ Taylor Hall plays against the Boston Bruins during the second period of an NHL hockey game, in Boston. The Buffalo Sabres could trade 2018 MVP Hall, who signed for just this season and is a pending free agent. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer, File)
Boston Bruins acquire Taylor Hall to kick off NHL trade deadline day

Trade deadline day in the NHL has started with the Boston Bruins… Continue reading

The Huawei logo displayed at the main office of Chinese tech giant Huawei in Warsaw, Poland, on Friday, Jan. 11, 2019. Poland’s Internal Security Agency has charged a Chinese manager at Huawei in Poland and one of its own former officers with espionage against Poland on behalf of China. (AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski)
Huawei, HSBC agree on document deal for extradition case

HONG KONG — Chinese telecommunications equipment firm Huawei said Monday that it… Continue reading

The Montreal Police logo is seen on a police car in Montreal on Wednesday, July 8, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Hundreds defy Montreal’s 8 p.m. curfew in violent, destructive protest

MONTREAL — Hundreds of protestors gathered in Montreal on Sunday in defiance… Continue reading

Most Read