Cancer refers to a diverse group of diseases in which abnormal cells develop and divide uncontrollably and have the ability to infiltrate and destroy normal body tissue. Cancer can spread throughout the body causing further damage. In 2009, Cancer (C00-D48) was the underlying cause of death for 41,952 registered deaths in Australia. This accounted for 29.8% of all registered deaths. Cancer contributed to a total of 48,165 deaths as either an underlying or associated cause of death.
The standardised death rate for cancer was 175.6 per 100,000 population in 2009, a decrease from 193.2 per 100,000 population in 2000.
The standardised death rate for males in 2009 was 223.4 per 100,000, and 139.2 per 100,000 for females. More males than females died of cancer with 130 male deaths per 100 female deaths for the 2009 reference year. The median age of persons dying from cancer in 2009 was 75.0 years for males, 75.4 years for females and 75.1 years for all cancer deaths. Potential life lost due to cancer deaths was 183,455 years for males and 151,621 years for females.
Prostate cancer (C61) was the underlying cause of 3,111 deaths registered in 2009, 4.3% of all male deaths registered. The median age at death for prostate cancer was 81.3 years. This is close to the median age for all male deaths (77.8 years). Potential life lost from deaths due to prostate cancer was 9,215 years. Breast cancer (C50) was the underlying cause of 2,772 female deaths registered in 2009, 4.1% of all female deaths registered. The median age at death for breast cancer was 68.0 years for females, which is 15.9 years lower than the median age for all female deaths (83.9 years). Potential life lost from deaths due to breast cancer was 33,370 years for females.
Seven of the top 20 leading underlying causes of death in 2009 were attributable to some form of malignant cancer. These seven causes accounted for 25,612 deaths or 18.2% of all registered deaths in 2009. For further analysis of leading causes of death see Chapter 2.