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Study: An update on cancer survival

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From 1992-1994 to 2004-2006, the five-year relative survival ratio for a number of cancers increased, usually slightly, but in some cases, appreciably.

For example, the age-standardized relative survival ratio for non-Hodgkin lymphoma rose from 51% to 63%. The ratio for leukemia rose from 44% to 54%, and for liver cancer, it nearly doubled, from 9% to 17%.

Increases in relative survival ratios over time could be due to a number of factors, including diagnosis at earlier stages of the disease or improvements in treatment.

The five-year relative survival ratio for all cancers combined was 62% for cases diagnosed in 2004-2006. In other words, compared with people without cancer, those diagnosed with cancer are predicted to have about three-fifths the probability of surviving the next five years. The ten-year relative survival ratio was a little lower, at 58%.

 Cancer ten-year relative survival ratios, Canada (excluding Quebec), 2004-2006

In 2004-2006, five-year relative survival ratios ranged from 6% for pancreatic cancer to 98% for cancer of the thyroid.

The five-year relative survival ratio was high for cancers of the prostate (96%) and testis (95%), skin melanoma (89%) and breast cancer (88%).

Cancer sites for which five-year relative survival ratios were low included esophagus (13%) and lung and bronchus (16%).

For cancers with moderate to poor long-term prognoses, the probability of dying was typically highest in the time shortly after diagnosis. For example, the one-year relative survival ratio for pancreatic cancer was 21%. The three-year ratio was 8%, while the ten-year ratio was 6%.

For most cancers, relative survival ratios were higher at younger ages than at older ages, and, for some cancers, the survival advantage at younger ages was quite marked. For example, at ages 15 through 44, five-year relative survival for cancer of the brain was 58%, compared with 9% at ages 65 through 74, and 4% at ages 75 through 99.

Note: The five-year relative survival ratio is the ratio of the observed survival of a group of people with cancer to the expected survival for people in the general population who are assumed to be free of cancer and otherwise have the same characteristics affecting survival as the group with cancer.

Definitions, data sources and methods: survey number 3207.

The article, "An update on cancer survival," which is part of today's Health Reports, Vol. 21, no. 3 (82-003-X, free), print release, is now available from the Key resource module of our website under Publications. For more information, or to enquire about the concepts, methods or data quality of this release, contact Larry F. Ellison (613-951-5244; or Kathryn Wilkins (613-951-1769;, Health Analysis Division.

Today's release of Health Reports also includes the article "Regional patterns of risk for sexually transmitted infections in British Columbia." This study uses data from Statistics Canada's 2005 Canadian Community Health Survey to investigate the relationship between age, geographic region and risk factors for sexually transmitted infections in British Columbia. For more information, contact Kathleen N. Deering (604-314-4350;, University of British Columbia.

The online edition of Health Reports, Vol. 21, no. 3 (82-003-X, free), is available from the Key resource module of our website under Publications.

The print version of the latest issue of Health Reports, Vol. 21, no. 3 (82-003-X, $24/$68), is also now available. See How to order products.

For more information about Health Reports, contact Janice Felman (613-951-6446;, Health Analysis Division.