THE number of Australians either living with cancer or who have survived the disease is expected to soar to nearly 1.9 million by 2040.
Cancer Council Australia says our ageing population and better survival rates will help push the number of people with a history of cancer up by 72 per cent from the 1.1 million today.
About 134,000 people are expected to be diagnosed with cancer this year alone.
By 2040 more than half of the nearly two million people forecast to have experienced cancer will be aged 70 or older, with prostate, breast, colorectal and melanoma expected to make up the bulk of all diagnoses.
Cancer Council Australia chief executive Sanchia Aranda says the forecasts are a wake-up call for younger people to take care of their health to lower their risk of getting cancer, and for governments, GPs and employers to better support survivors of the disease.
“We know that people after a cancer diagnosis are more likely to be in part-time work or finish work early, so there are economic impacts of having had cancer,” Professor Aranda told AAP on Thursday.
“People also often access their superannuation early to cope with things like paying their mortgage and other things while they are ill.
“Then there are the long-term side effects of the treatment itself and the physical impact, as well as things like the fear of recurrence and higher risk of second cancers.
“One in three cancers are estimated to be preventable, with tobacco smoking the biggest preventable cause.
“However, Prof Aranda says there are also growing concerns about the impact of obesity, alcohol consumption, unhealthy diets and lack of physical activity could have on causing a spike in future cancer rates.
“If we do a lot of work on cancer prevention we might lower those numbers,” she said.
“We know if bowel cancer screening rates rise from the current 40 per cent to 50 per cent, that’s 84,000 lives that will be saved, so those will add to cancer survival figures.
“The Cancer Council expects that by 2040 a greater proportion of wealthier than poor people will have a personal history of cancer largely because those who are well off are more likely to complete treatment and survive.
Prof Aranda said less wealthy people were more likely to smoke, putting them at greater risk of developing cancer, and might not always be able to afford treatment.
“We know that patients make treatment decisions based on economics, so if you’re the only breadwinner and need six weeks off work to have radiotherapy you may choose not to do that,” she said.
“We really need to address those equity issues.”
TYPES OF CANCERS PEOPLE WILL BE LIVING WITH OR HAVE SURVIVED IN 2040
Non-Hodgkin lymphoma 83,000
Acute myeloid leukaemia 15,000
(Source: Cancer Council Australia)