Cancer statistics at a glance
Cancer statistics tell us how many people in Canada are diagnosed with and die from cancer each year. They show us the trends in new cancer cases and cancer deaths. Cancer statistics also tell us the likelihood of surviving a cancer diagnosis and the percentage of people who are alive years after a cancer diagnosis.
Canadian provinces and territories collect data on cancer cases and cancer deaths. These data are combined to provide a picture of how cancer affects all of Canada.
Statistics are an important part of healthcare planning and of measuring the success of cancer control.
Incidence and mortality
Incidence is the number of new cases of cancer. Mortality is the number of deaths due to cancer. Researchers use the most up-to-date data available and statistical methods to estimate the number of new cancer cases and deaths for the current year.
Researchers estimated that there would be 229,200 new cancer cases and 84,600 cancer deaths in Canada in 2021. (The number of estimated new cases does not include non-melanoma skin cancer cases.)
Cancer is the leading cause of death in Canada and is responsible for 28.2% of all deaths.
Chances (probability) of developing or dying from cancer
- 2 in 5 Canadians (44% of men and 43% of women) are expected to develop cancer during their lifetime.
- About 1 out of 4 Canadians (26% of men and 22% of women) is expected to die from cancer.
Trends in cancer rates
Cancer is a disease that mostly affects Canadians aged 50 and older, but it can occur at any age. Across Canada, cancer incidence rates vary because of differences in risks (including behaviours and exposures) and early detection practices. Similarly, rates of cancer death vary because of differences in incidence. Mortality rates may also vary due to differences in access to and outcomes of cancer control activities (for example, screening, diagnosis, treatment and follow-up) across the country.
Cancer incidence has declined annually since 2011, -1.5% for men and –1.2% for women.
Cancer mortality is decreasing over time. Since the cancer mortality rate peaked in 1988, it has decreased 37% in men and 22% in women between 1988 and 2021.
There are many different ways of measuring and reporting cancer survival statistics. Net survival is an estimate of the percentage of people who are alive at some point in time after their cancer diagnosis, accounting for other causes of death. Most survival statistics are reported for a specific time period, usually 5 years.
Based on data from 2015 to 2017, the predicted five-year net survival for all cancers combined was 64%. This is up from 55% in the early 1990s. In the 1940s, survival was about 25%.
Survival rates vary from low to high depending on the type of cancer. Based on 2015–2017 data:
- The 5-year net survival rate for lung cancer is low (22%).
- The 5-year net survival rate for colorectal cancer is about average (67%).
- The 5-year net survival rate is high for prostate cancer (91%) and breast cancer (89%).