Nearly 234,000 Cancer Cases Predicted in Canada This Year

Carolyn Crist

May 13, 2022

About 233,900 new cancer cases and 85,100 cancer deaths are predicted to occur in Canada in 2022, according to new research.

The most commonly diagnosed cancer overall will be lung cancer, followed by breast cancer for women and prostate cancer for men.

Darren Brenner PhD

“Cancer is the leading cause of death in Canada,” lead study author Darren Brenner, PhD, a molecular cancer epidemiologist at the University of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta, Canada, and Alberta Health Services, told Medscape Medical News.

About two in five Canadians will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetimes, and about one in four will die from cancer.

“Given the considerable health and economic impact of cancer in Canada, comprehensive and reliable surveillance information is necessary for identifying where progress has been made and where more attention and resources are needed,” he said.

The findings were published online May 2 in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

Higher Rates Among Men

Brenner and colleagues estimated new cancer incidence using data from the National Cancer Incidence Reporting System and the Canadian Cancer Registry. They projected mortality rates based on the Canadian Vital Statistics Death Database. They calculated numbers for 22 cancer types by sex assigned at birth and geographic location.

About 30,000 new cases of lung cancer are predicted, followed by 28,900 breast cancer cases projected for women, 24,600 prostate cancer cases projected for men, and 24,300 colorectal cancers. The estimated 107,800 new cases for these four types of cancer represent about 46% of all cancers expected to be diagnosed this year.

Among those assigned male at birth, prostate cancer will remain the most commonly diagnosed cancer, representing about one in five new cases. That diagnosis will be followed by lung (12%), colorectal (11%), and bladder (8%) cancers.

Among those assigned female at birth, breast cancer will be the most common, making up about 25% of cases. That will be followed by lung (13%), colorectal (10%), and uterine (7%) cancers.

Lung cancer is also expected to be the leading cause of cancer death, accounting for 24.3% of all cancer deaths, followed by colorectal (11%), pancreatic (6.7%), breast (6.5%), and prostate (5.5%) cancers. These top five causes of cancer death will account for 54% of all cancer deaths in Canada in 2022.

Overall, the number of new cancer diagnoses will be 7% higher among men (121,100) than among women (112,800). In addition, the number of cancer deaths will be 13% higher among men than among women.

In general, cancer cases and deaths will be higher in the eastern provinces than in the western provinces of Canada, the study authors wrote.

“The projected high burden of lung cancer indicates a need for increased tobacco control and improvements in early detection and treatment,” Brenner said.

An Aging Population

Overall cancer rates are declining in Canada, the study authors wrote, but the cases and deaths are increasing due to population growth and an aging population.

For instance, lung cancer rates among men have declined significantly in recent decades, with the 2022 projection estimated to be 52% lower than in 1984. On the other hand, the lung cancer rate for women increased until 2014, when it began to decline, though the 2022 projection is estimated to be 43% higher than in 1984.

The colorectal cancer incidence rate among both men and women has declined since the early 2000s, and the decrease has accelerated since 2013.

The prostate cancer incidence rate increased dramatically among men in the early 1990s and stabilized in 2014. This plateau is expected to continue. The breast cancer incidence rate for women increased through the mid-1990s and has oscillated throughout the last two decades, the study authors wrote.

Mortality rates for lung, prostate, and colorectal cancer have consistently declined in Canada during the past two decades. Among women, lung cancer death rates increased from 1984 but have declined since 2015. Colorectal and breast cancer death rates among women have both declined steadily over time, and pancreatic cancer rates among men decreased until 2000, when they became generally stable.

“Success in breast and colorectal cancer screening and treatment likely account for the continued decline in their burden,” Brenner said. “The limited progress in early detection and new treatments for pancreatic cancer explains why it is expected to be the third leading cause of cancer death in Canada.”

Medium-incidence cancers of the bladder, head and neck, melanoma, kidney, and non-Hodgkin lymphoma still have a considerable impact on overall cancer burden in Canada, the study authors wrote.

About 43% of Canadians are expected to receive a cancer diagnosis in their lifetime. The economic burden of cancer care is also massive, rising from $2.9 billion in 2005 to $7.5 billion in 2012.

Annual Estimates Advisable

Claire de Oliveira PhD

“Updating these estimates and projecting expenditures for future years should likely be done on an annual basis,” Claire de Oliveira, PhD, a health economist at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health’s Institute for Mental Health Policy Research and an assistant professor at the University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, told Medscape Medical News.

De Oliveira, who wasn’t involved with this study, is also an associate member of the Canadian Centre for Applied Research in Cancer Control. She has previously estimated the economic burden of cancer care in Canada, including out-of-pocket costs for patients and their families.

“More investments in prevention and screening would be important, as well as ensuring patients receive timely and integrated care,” she said. “To ensure this type of work can be done, it is crucial to have good data that can be accessed in a timely manner.”

The study was supported by the Canadian Cancer Statistics Advisory Committee, the Canadian Cancer Society, Statistics Canada, and the Public Health Agency of Canada. Brenner and de Oliveira reported no relevant disclosures.

CMAJ. Published online May 2, 2022. Full text.

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