Set your location
ACT
NSW
NT
QLD
SA
TAS
VIC
WA
Clear Selection

Cancer Council recommends consumers discontinue using Cancer Council Sensitive Sunscreen SPF50+ 110ml batch number 1103178 and Cancer Council Sensitive Sunscreen SPF50+ 200ml batch number 1099751. Click here for more information or to apply for a refund.

This section features cancer prevention policy advice in relation to specific cancer types: those that are prevalent (common) and can be prevented either through lifestyle modification or early detection of precancerous conditions, or early-stage cancers.

Policy information on preventing a number of less common cancers is covered in the resources on specific cancer risk factors. For example, smoking causes 16 cancer types, which vary in prevalence but are all listed in the tobacco chapter of the National Cancer Prevention Policy.

For a number of other cancers – including some that cause high mortality rates – there is no evidence on prevention and screening that can be used to inform public policy. Examples include pancreatic and ovarian cancers. The key to improved outcomes for these cancers is increased and better targeted research investment.

This section of the website focuses only on cancers that can be prevented or detected early using measures shown to be effective by established evidence or are subject to high-level policy debate on prevention and early detection.

Bowel

Bowel cancer causes the second most cancer deaths in Australia after lung cancer and is the second most common cancer after prostate cancer (excluding non-melanoma skin cancer).

Around 14,000 new cases of bowel cancer are diagnosed in Australia each year. The risk of being diagnosed by age 85 is 1 in 12 for men and 1 in 17 for women.

Prevention

Despite the large disease burden that bowel cancer imposes on the community, individual risk can be significantly reduced through a healthy lifestyle – being physically active, maintaining a healthy weight, eating a balanced diet and not smoking. In addition, alcohol is conclusively shown to cause bowel cancer in men and is probably a cause of bowel cancer in women.

A summary of the evidence on primary prevention of bowel cancer is included in the bowel cancer chapter of our National Cancer Prevention Policy.

Detailed evidence-based policy on reducing the individual lifestyle risk factors for bowel cancer is available in the:

Information on screening for bowel cancer is available under early detection.

Sources:

  • Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, Australian Cancer Incidence and Mortality Books.
  • National Cancer Prevention Policy, Cancer Council Australia

Breast

Breast cancer is the second most common cause of cancer death in Australian women after lung cancer and the most commonly diagnosed cancer in Australian women. It also occurs in men, though in much smaller numbers.

While the main risk factor is ageing, with incidence increasing steadily as women age, the risk of developing breast cancer can be reduced through a healthy lifestyle – limiting alcohol consumption, maintaining a healthy weight (particularly for postmenopausal women), being physically active and eating a balanced diet.

A summary of the evidence on primary prevention of breast cancer is included in the breast cancer chapter of our National Cancer Prevention Policy.

Detailed evidence-based policy on reducing the individual behavioural risk factors associated with breast cancer is available in the:

Evidence shows that breast cancer mortality can also be reduced through population screening using mammography. Detailed information is available in the breast cancer chapter of our National Cancer Prevention Policy.

A more comprehensive suite of policy information is available from the National Breast and Ovarian Cancer Centre, which is part of the Government's Cancer Australia agency.

Sources:

  • Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, Australian Cancer Incidence and Mortality Books.
  • National Cancer Prevention Policy, Cancer Council Australia.

Gynaecological

Gynaecological cancers, or cancers of the female reproductive system, include cancers of the cervix, fallopian tubes, ovary, placenta, uterus (endometrium), vagina and vulva.

Together, there are around 5000  gynaecological cancers diagnosed in Australia each year. These cancers only affect women and together account for 9.4% of all cancers diagnosed in women.

The most common gynaecological cancers are cancers of the uterus, ovary and cervix; data on these is compiled individually. Fallopian tube, placental, vaginal and vulval cancers are less common, and often grouped in data analyses as ‘other gynaecological cancers’. Apart from cervical cancer, which is the only gynaecological cancer that can be prevented and detected early, there is little in the way of evidence-based public health policy in this area.

You can find more information on the types of gynaecological cancers here.

Liver

In Australia, about 1900 people are diagnosed with primary liver cancer each year, with almost three times as many men as women affected. Although not as common in Australia as cancers of the pancreas, kidney, blood and lymphatic systems, liver cancer features here because it is more preventable than those cancers. Around half of all cases are caused by hepatitis B infection, which can be prevented through immunisation. Monitoring of patients with hepatitis and antiviral drugs can also reduce the risk of infection developing into cancer.

Hepatitis infection at a young age increases the risk of the virus developing into cancer. Liver cancer is therefore significantly more prevalent among people from developing countries and Indigenous people, who have higher rates of hepatitis in childhood.

Detailed policy information on hepatitis B and liver cancer is available in the liver cancer chapter of our National Cancer Prevention Policy. For information, including for health professionals, on hepatitis infection for high-risk groups, visit Cancer Council NSW’s B Positive Project site.

In addition, evidence shows that alcohol consumption is a probable cause of liver cancer, estimated to be associated with up to 17% of cases in Australia. For policy information on reducing the risk of alcohol-related cancer in Australia, including liver cancer, see the alcohol and cancer chapter of our National Cancer Prevention Policy.

Sources: 

  • Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, Australian Cancer Incidence and Mortality Books.
  • Union for International Cancer Control, evidence sheets on HBV and cancer.
  • Cancer Council NSW, B Positive Project.

Lung

Lung cancer causes the highest mortality of any cancer type in both Australian men and women. It is the fifth most common cancer diagnosed in Australia, with about 11,500 new cases recorded each year.

Tobacco smoking causes around 89% of all lung cancer cases in men and 70% of cases in women. Evidence-based tobacco control policy therefore features prominently on our website. For detailed information on tobacco control, see the tobacco chapter of our National Cancer Prevention Policy and related position statements.

Lung cancer has also been linked to exposure to occupational carcinogens such as asbestos. Further information is available in the occupational cancers chapter of our National Cancer Prevention Policy.

There is currently no recommended population screening tool for lung cancer; it is also one of the most difficult cancers to treat, which is why the mortality rate is high.

For a discussion on lung cancer treatment and the false perception that all cases are smoking-related, see former Cancer Council CEO Professor Ian Olver's blog post (2011).

Prostate

Excluding non-melanoma skin cancer, prostate cancer is the most common cancer diagnosed in Australia and, after lung cancer, the largest cause of cancer death in Australian men. There are over 18,000 new prostate cancer diagnoses in Australia every year.

The main risk factor for prostate cancer is ageing, with incidence of the disease increasing in step with ageing at a markedly high rate; 80% of prostate cancer cases and 97% of deaths in Australia occur in men aged 60 and over.

Family history cancer also be a risk factor for prostate cancer, with between 5% and 10% of cases estimated to be caused by a genetic predisposition.

Early detection

There is no national screening test for prostate cancer, as evidence shows that the two most commonly used early-detection technologies, the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test and digital rectal examination, are not sufficiently accurate as population screening tools.

Cancer Council's policy recommendations, and background information, are in the prostate cancer screening chapter of our National Cancer Prevention Policy. We have also published a concise summary statement on prostate cancer screening, developed in partnership the intergovernmental Australian Health Ministers' Advisory Council.

Sources:

  • Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, Australian Cancer Incidence and Mortality Books.
  • Commonwealth Department of Health and Ageing, Cancer screening section.

Skin

Australia is the world's skin cancer capital. Skin cancer accounts for over 80% of all new cases of cancer diagnosed in Australia each year.

Excluding non-melanoma skin cancer, melanoma is the fourth most common cancer diagnosed in Australia.  More than 13,000 people are diagnosed with melanoma in Australia every year. Non-melanoma skin cancer deaths are rare compared with the number of cases: it is estimated that around 434,000 Australians are treated for non-melanoma skin cancers each year. There is no incidence data, as non-melanoma skin cancer diagnoses are not registered on state/territory and national cancer databases.

Skin cancer is the most preventable of all common cancers, with almost all cases caused by exposure to ultraviolet radiation – predominantly from the sun but also from solarium use. Detailed policy information on skin cancer control in Australia is available in the UV chapter of our National Cancer Prevention Policy and related position statements.

*More recent mortality figures are available from the Australian Bureau of Statistics but, as these figures are preliminary and subject to revision, our policy documents cite the confirmed figures from the Australian Cancer Incidence and Mortality books published by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.

Sources:

  • Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, Australian Cancer Incidence and Mortality Books.
  • Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, Skin Cancer in Australia.

Find out more about types of cancer