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Summary of key findings

Publication: Health Reports 2010:21(3)

Authors: Larry F. Ellison and Kathryn Wilkins

Data: Canadian Cancer registry linked to the Canadian Vital Statistics Death Data Base

From 1992-1994 to 2004-2006, five-year relative survival 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 to 2006. That is, 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%.

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

Relative survival 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 than 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.

For more information about this article, contact Kathryn Wilkins (1-613-951-1769;, Health Analysis Division.