Cancer our biggest killer as heart deaths drop

CANCER has overtaken circulatory diseases as the leading cause of death in Australia, according to the latest Council of Australian Governments report.

The COAG Reform Council's Healthcare in Australia 2012-13 reported on national healthcare progress and outcomes during the 2007-08 to 2012-13 period.

The report found Australian deaths from circulatory diseases (heart attacks, strokes) were down by 15%.

The findings showed cancer rates changed little during the reporting period, and cancer deaths fell only in some states and territories.

Cancer Council Queensland spokesperson Katie Clift said despite cancer being the number one killer, more Australians were surviving the disease than ever before.

"In Queensland alone, the five-year relative survival rate for all cancers has increased from 53% in the 1980s to nearly 69% today," Ms Clift said.

"We are making progress in research, clinical trials and treatment for all cancers, but more needs to be done to reduce cancer incidence and further improve survival rates.

"The COAG report shows an increase in melanoma rates, from 61.7 new cases per 100,000 people in 2006, to 68.2 new cases per 100,000 people in 2010.

"The findings also show smoking rates in Queensland dropped from 21.6% in 2008 to 17.9% in 2011-12."

The COAG report also identified adult obesity as a major cause for concern, with Queensland rates rising from 61% in 2007-08 to almost 65% in 2011-12.

"More than one third of all cancer deaths are preventable through healthy lifestyle factors including quitting smoking, maintaining a healthy diet and weight, engaging in physical activity, staying SunSmart and participating in recommended screening," Ms Clift said.

More information about Cancer Council Queensland is available at www.cancer or Cancer Council Helpline 13 11 20.