Alberta cancer rates trend downward

The rate at which Albertans are being diagnosed with cancer, or dying from the disease, is continuing to decrease

  • Feb. 26, 2013 6:00 a.m.

The rate at which Albertans are being diagnosed with cancer, or dying from the disease, is continuing to decrease, according to new data released from Alberta Health Services (AHS).

Alberta’s cancer rates have steadily declined by about one per cent per year between 2002 and 2010. Mortality rates have also decreased over the past 20 years, falling by 2.8 per cent yearly between 2004 and 2010.

“Directly or indirectly, cancer affects the lives of almost every Albertan, which is why the Alberta government remains committed to providing world-class cancer prevention and treatment,” says Fred Horne, minister of health.

“It’s clear that the efforts of our researchers and clinicians are making a difference: the proportion of Albertans developing cancer is going down and the proportion of Albertans who survive cancer is going up. These are encouraging trends.”

Dr. Paul Grundy, AHS – Cancer Care senior vice-president and senior medical director, concurs. “We’re on the right track with cancer control in Alberta.”

“The data suggests our public health efforts in areas such as tobacco cessation, sun safety and cancer screening are having a positive effect. And the steady reduction in mortality rates is a tribute to the leading-edge care available in the province and the hard work and expertise of our oncologists and the health providers who support them.

“There’s still a great deal of work that remains to be done across the entire spectrum of Cancer Care, but we’re headed in the right direction.”

AHS – Cancer Care is working on a number of major projects to improve cancer control across the province — from prevention, screening and research, through to treatment and survivorship.

This includes:

• The ongoing expansion of the Alberta Radiation Therapy Corridor. Radiation therapy is now available in Edmonton, Calgary and Lethbridge, and new radiation therapy clinics are being constructed in Red Deer and Grande Prairie.

• The development of the patient navigator system in all community and associate cancer centres in Alberta. Registered nurses prepare patients for tests and treatments; explain test results and treatment choices; help patients access complementary care, such as rehabilitation; and connect patients with services before, during and after treatment.

• Increased funding and development of the clinical trials program, which drives innovations in cancer prevention, treatment and recovery.

• The provincial rollout of the Screening for Distress program, which aims to reduce the distress many Albertans feel after they are diagnosed with cancer.

The two reports on cancer statistics have been released to coincide with World Cancer Day, Feb. 4, as a way to raise awareness of the toll that the disease takes on Albertans and to recognize some of the hard work that is being done in cancer control.

The two reports recently released include the 2010 Report on Cancer Statistics in Alberta (, which is a bi-annual look at trends in new cases of cancer and deaths due to cancer over the past 20 years. This report provides detailed information on prevalence, projections, the chances of survival, lifetime risk of developing/dying from cancer and potential years of life lost from all cancers combined, top 12 cancers and childhood cancers.

The second report is the 2009 annual cancer registry report (updated in 2010), which includes annual counts of cancer diagnoses and cancer deaths occurring among Alberta residents. This information is used as a quick reference for clinicians, researchers and program planners who require annual counts and rates of Albertans developing and dying from cancer.

Along with the falling incidence and mortality rates, the new statistics show that approximately one in every two Albertans will develop cancer in their lifetime and approximately one in four Albertans will die from cancer. The reports also show that the increase in new cancer cases over the past 20 years is mainly attributable to population growth and an aging population.

AHS – Cancer Care encourages all Albertans to be conscious of the variety of lifestyle choices – including diet, tobacco use, physical activity and time spent in the sun – that can affect the likelihood of developing certain cancers. Regular cancer screening in target populations is also important. For more information, check out: