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Cancer is a major cause of illness in Australia—there are over 1 million people alive in Australia who are either living with or have lived with cancer. Around 30 years ago, about 5 in 10 people survived for at least 5 years after their cancer diagnosis; more recent figures are closer to 7 in 10 people surviving at least 5 years. Understanding and avoiding the risk factors associated with cancer can help to reduce the chance of getting cancer, while cancer screening programs increase the likelihood of detecting cancer early, enabling better outcomes from treatments. Improvements in treatments and care are also important contributors to improvements in survival.

Even though cancer survival rates have increased and cancer mortality rates continue to drop, cancer accounts for around 3 of every 10 deaths in Australia. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and people in lower socioeconomic groups both have lower cancer survival rates than other Australians. And while cancer survival rates have improved overall, people diagnosed with cancers such as pancreatic cancer, lung cancer and mesothelioma have a less than 1 in 5 chance, on average, of surviving at least 5 years after being diagnosed.